Considering the cost and resource needed to manage your own onsite sample storage, it makes sense to outsource your biological sample storage.
The cost of the infrastructure and experienced team needed to ensure the safety of precious, often irreplaceable, biospecimens can be prohibitively high. State of the art biostorage systems require significant controlled lab space equipped with remote monitored temperature monitoring systems, backup power, staff trained in the maintenance of biological sample storage equipment at a variety of temperatures and the establishment of documented procedures for disaster recovery. Whether you need to protect your samples for contractual requirements, audit purposes or future research, repositing biological samples in a temperature controlled environment for future access comes with considerations, including the economics of outsourcing. This blog looks at four key challenges when it comes to biological sample storage.
Flexibility – labware format and access are all issues to consider for biological sample storage.
- Labware format: Whether samples are collected as part of a clinical trial, demographic study or other research project it is likely that different labware types will be used – this could be due to legacy sample collections or labware shortages as seen recently. Therefore it is important to retain flexibility in labware when looking at storing biological samples. Professional biorepositories have systems in place to accommodate a multitude of sample container sizes and types, including cryovials, straws and cassettes for blood bags.
- Data Management & Storage: The data you keep with the sample is as important as the sample itself, if either fail then the sample is useless. Many biological sample collections grow from small beginnings where sample records are managed on a homegrown LIMS or on spreadsheets. Researchers must ensure they have robust data and correct access available. Biorepository LIMS systems monitor sample location and status in real-time and have IT and software security measures in place to restrict access to sample data to the client sponsoring biological sample storage.
- On site space: Floor space in research labs can be hard to come by, and in cases where space is limited the competition can be high. Outsourcing the storage of low-touch samples can be a great way of freeing up lab space and creating more space for important research to take place.
Cost – should be considered over the lifetime of biological sample storage.
- Infrastructure & installations costs: there are many important costs to consider when setting up on-site storage including facilities adaptations1, energy costs, FTE costs and the impact on other departments from a resource point of view.
- Ongoing service costs: Depending on the biological sample stored, and the reasons for the storage a samples lifetime may run into decades and outlive storage facilities which would need to be maintained eventually replaced. An outsourced biological sample storage service provides this maintenance and relieves the burden from the client. Biorepositories benefit from economies of scale with regard to centralized freezer farms, main liquid nitrogen tanks that feed dozens of storage tanks via computer-controlled systems, and teams of staff responsible for maintenance and oversight.
- Time & resource: In cases where time is an issue, centralized repositories employ dedicated sample management instruments and teams for sample withdrawal and distribution employing cold-chain logistics. This allows for rapid turnover of sample distribution requests upon receipt.
Disaster recovery – ensuring your samples are protected from natural disaster is vital
- Storage location: where your storage is geographically located can be key in the event of a natural disaster. Ensuring your samples are not at risk in areas vulnerable to flooding or seismic activity can be overlooked if sample collections have evolved in a site not designed specifically for that purpose.
- Backup generators: building in redundancies (diesel and natural gas generator fuel sources, for example) and back-up generators is an important element to ensure samples are protected in case of a power-failure or liquid nitrogen supply failure. Also ensuring that back-up generators are not located in areas vulnerable to flooding is important e.g. in basement areas. Installation and maintenance of these systems can be a costly part of on-site storage.
- Redundancies and Monitoring: it is vital to have constant temperature monitoring in place with alarm systems and redundant freezers available in case of emergency should a system go down for any reason, including human error which has been seen in multiple examples such as a tragic case in which 25 years of research lost due to a system being turned off by a custodian.
- On-Call Service Technicians: Having immediate availability of service technicians allows for both fast response and continuous testing and preventitive maintainance, helping mitigate the risks of a catastrophic failure.
Storage Temperature – understanding what temperature your samples need to be stored at
- -20°C Sample Storage: Commonly available in both mechanical upright (manual) freezers as well as automated systems to speed up storage and retrieval, often seen in high throughput screening labs. Typically we recommend DNA/RNA samples are stored at –80°C degrees Celsius.
- -80°C Sample Storage: Again, commonly available in both mechanical upright (manual) and automated systems. Typically we recommend this for long term storage of biological samples such as proteins or nucleic acids.
- -190°C Sample Storage: also described as vapor phase LN2 or liquid phase LN2, -190°C biological sample storage can be the best option for storing tissue samples or cells suspended in a cryopreservation agent (CPA). These samples could include blood or tissue as well as other sample types such as reproductive specimens.
Biological sample storage can be done in-house with the installation and ongoing maintenance of dedicated storage systems (of which there are many on the market to choose from), along with the above considerations such as; labware format, installation costs, storage location and variety of storage temperatures available.
Alternatively, researchers can outsource their storage needs to an external sample storage provider such as Sampled, and trust the 20+ years of experience we have in storing millions of biosamples and and ISBER Gold Member in our custom storage facilities that are ready to go with no waiting time. Sampled outsourced sample storage includes consultation with our clients to ensure a sample storage solution is not just tailored to protect your biological sample integrity but easy to access and flexible enough for different sample types and labware formats. This means that we manage the samples but our clients retain access to the storage environment, access, format and data relating to their biological samples.
With over 20 years operating as a biorepository storing millions of biosamples and global distribution capabilities, Sampled is proud to work with a wide variety of clients from hospitals to academic research institutions as well as large pharma. If you have biologic samples you need to store, Sampled has the facilities and expertise ready to support your biological sample storage today.
1: Facilities costs for sample storage https://www.researchgate.net/publication/338482409_Automated_Sample_Storage_in_Biobanking_to_Enhance_Translational_Research_The_Bumpy_Road_to_Implementation