Mitigating Risk in Biorepositories

Hurricanes, mudslides, wildfires, tsunamis. Earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, sinkholes, floods.

The list of natural disasters is long, and they are happening more frequently. In fact, the number of worldwide disasters has quadrupled since 1970 and currently stands at around 400 a year.1

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) reported upwards of $300 billion in damages caused by natural disasters for the US in 2017 alone.2 These numbers are chilling, and they illustrate the increasing importance of risk mitigation strategies for biorepositories, biobanks, research facilities, and laboratories worldwide. Risk mitigation plans that include contingency and disaster recovery strategies are now recognized as essential for any commercial or non-profit entity operating with biosamples.3,4

Damage from natural disasters or losses from accidents such as localized fires, explosions, and floods cannot always be prevented. But a risk mitigation plan and disaster preparedness can help in these situations. A few essential components make the difference between sample loss and sample recovery after catastrophic events.

The key word is BACKUP. Electrical power, emergency power systems, alarm systems, data storage, and specimen storage equipment. Backup components for all of these are in any good risk mitigation plan. And make sure to pay close attention to storage conditions daily.

Play it safe.

Risk mitigation also includes maintaining multiple aliquots of the biospecimens themselves – ideally stored in different physical locations. The International Society for Biological and Environmental Repositories (ISBER) outlines these recommendations in the latest edition of their Best Practices guide.5

So, what would a business continuity plan look like that follows recommended best practices and provides optimal risk mitigation?

For starters, it would feature a multi-factorial set of procedures, guidelines, and regulations that includes disaster recovery procedures to rescue biospecimens as well as regular internal and external quality audits, stress-tested facility backup power, and redundant storage equipment.

It also maintains stringent environmental control systems (backup A/C) and guaranteed 24-hour resources such as fuel or liquid nitrogen. Continuous independently wired monitoring and facility alarm systems (with backup) should be in place to notify offsite personnel of biorepositories in case of emergencies or equipment failures. In addition, vendor contracts for transport and storage of biospecimens should be pre-arranged.

A data services protection plan to guide sample data preservation and retrieval should also exist. And biosample assets should be insured against loss to enable business continuity after a disastrous event.

The continuity plan also requires constant and failsafe tracking of the company’s inventory. If you need assistance in devising such a plan, Brooks Life Sciences can help in several ways.

With decades of expertise in disaster recovery and risk mitigation, our experts can help find cost-effective solutions for biorepositories and other entities working with biospecimens. This includes hands-on disaster recovery with mobile units, informatics solutions for biomaterial inventory and management – and global logistics networks for samples and cold chain maintenance.

Check out our risk mitigation services, and contact an expert to discuss your needs.

Once a sample collection is lost, it is impossible to know the impact it could’ve had on research and our ability to fight disease. Especially with highly specialized, unique collections. Those biospecimens could have been the rungs on a ladder that lead to cures or other important discoveries. So, we are duty-bound to protect sample collections, because the insights they present through research could lead to healthier and brighter tomorrows for all of us.


1. The Economist. 2017., accessed June 30, 2018.

2. Irfan U, Resnick B. Mega disasters devastated America in 2017. And they’re only going to get worse. Vox. 2018.

3. Hager R. Biobanking Operations: Contingency Planning and Disaster Recovery of Research Samples. BioProcessing Journal. 2014. 13:56–58.

4. Mische S, Wilkerson A. Disaster and Contingency Planning for Scientific Shared Resource Cores. J Biomol Tech. 2016. 27(1): 4–17. doi: 10.7171/jbt.16-2701-003.

5. Campbell LD, Astrin JJ, DeSouza Y, Giri, J, Patel AA, Rawley-Payne M, et al. The 2018 Revision of the ISBER Best Practices: Summary of Changes and the Editorial Team's Development Process. Biopreservation and Biobanking. 2018. 16(1): 3-6. doi: 10.1089/bio.2018.0001.