The Art of Sample Management: Logistic Considerations

Biomedical research projects are increasingly conducted as multi-center collaborations. And transport of samples (often across national borders) is a feature of many successful studies.

However, regulatory laws that govern storage and transport differ from country to country. So, expertise in international sample logistics is as important as accurate sample tracking and temperature control to prevent unfortunate delays and sample loss during shipment.

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In biomedical research, biorepositories are invaluable resources. They can provide the amount of quality samples to generate statistically relevant observations that can shift how we treat common diseases.

Studies often use hundreds of thousands of samples across various ethnic backgrounds and regions to arrive at statistically relevant conclusions. International multi-center studies are increasingly used to investigate genetic associations with novel therapies against disease.

Consequently, national and international transport of samples is on the rise. And transport processes come with their own set of challenges that include avoidance of temperature fluctuation, compliance with legal requirements for shipment, storage, customs clearance, and accurate sample tracking before, during, and after transport. How can these requirements be met?

Temperature Control
This important aspect of sample transport can be especially challenging for samples that require consistent temperatures below the glass transition temperature of water (approximately -135°C) – when all biological activity ceases.

Examples of these samples include cryogenically preserved primary cells, cell lines and fresh-frozen tissue. Temperature fluctuations during shipment could impact recovery and viability of these samples and must be avoided.

Sample Shipment
Ideally, dry-vapor shippers with sensors that monitor and record temperatures (both inside and outside) are used for such shipments. However, some samples may not require cryogenic temperatures and can be transported on dry ice under less stringent conditions. For others – such as vaccine preparations – specific temperature ranges above freezing need to be applied.

So, the appropriate shipping vessel is crucial for sample survival and downstream functionality.

Our logistics teams all obtain IATA and DOT certifications. They are also trained in international sample logistics and familiar with the legal framework of sample transport, including domestic and international customs requirements.

They know the safest shipping routes and international courier services. In fact, our sample logistics experts have been at the forefront of efforts to identify best practices for preservation and transport of cryogenic samples.

Sample Tracking
An auditable and error-free chain-of-custody must remain intact for each sample before, during, and after transport. A cloud-based 21CFR Part 11 compliant sample management platform provides 24/7 virtual access to sample inventory, shipment, and receipt status through a secure portal that can integrate with any LIMS system.

Superior sample logistics demands expert timing and organization to minimize disruption of research activities and maximize cost-effectiveness. Because any sample lost during transport is one too many.

As national and international cooperation between biorepositories and research facilities becomes the norm in globalized research, count on us to accelerate research through more efficient sample management and quick turnaround times for samples stored in our network of biorepositories.