In the context of the Austrian Genome Program, a tissue bank is being established (Genome Austria Tissue Bank, GATiB) which is based on a collection of diseased and corresponding normal tissues representing a great variety of diseases at their natural frequency of occurrence from a non-selected Central European population of more than 700,000 patients. Major emphasis is put on annotation of archival tissue with comprehensive clinical data, including follow-up data. A specific IT infrastructure supports sample annotation, tracking of sample usage as well as sample and data storage. Innovative data protection tools were developed which prevent sample donor re-identification, particularly if detailed medical and genetic data are combined. For quality control of old archival tissues, new techniques were established to check RNA quality and antigen stability. Since 2003, GATiB has changed from a population-based tissue bank to a disease-focused biobank comprising major cancers such as colon, breast, liver, as well as metabolic liver diseases and organs affected by the metabolic syndrome. Prospectively collected tissues are associated with blood samples and detailed data on the sample donor’s disease, lifestyle and environmental exposure, following standard operating procedures. Major emphasis is also placed on ethical, legal and social issues (ELSI) related to biobanks. A specific research project and an international advisory board ensure the proper embedding of GATiB in society and facilitate international networking.