Modern biorepositories take advantage of high-powered software, incredibly precise equipment and regimented processes to efficiently store hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of biosamples. Likewise, advances in freezer and storage technology, robotic sample handling and tools such as web-based sample management have made storage more efficient and cost-effective than ever before. Amidst all these improvements, however, every biobank is still limited by one fundamental – and occasionally overlooked – issue: the amount of available storage space.
The sum total of technology, people and real estate costs at a biobank means that every square centimeter of space is valuable. Failure to maximize return on space, down to the capacity of each freezer, can be costly and limiting, whether you’re an organization running its own biobank or a third-party provider.
While the concept of space can seem “basic” given the advanced technology inside most biobanks, the dramatic impact on efficiency and profitability cannot be overstated. And as every person in biobanking knows, it is increasingly important – especially for publicly funded projects – to maximize storage space and thereby minimize energy usage. Organizations now look to biobanks to function as efficiently as possible from both a financial and environmental impact perspective. While there are myriad ways to build or retrofit facilities to maximize space, below are some suggestions that should get most biobanks get started:
- Fully explore the advantages and disadvantages of different storage types. Chest freezers, for example, maintain cold temperatures more efficiently than upright freezers, but they take up more floor space. If floor space is at a premium in your facility, upright freezers may be the way to go. For a comparison of freezer types and an overview of the biobank design process, check out this white paper.
- Plan storage based on the needs of your samples. Different biosamples must be stored at different temperatures, from room temperature and 4°C refrigeration to vapor phase liquid nitrogen cryogenics (-196°C). An efficient biobank will have multiple freezers that are suited to the varying types and quantities of biosamples it processes.
Evaluate different sample container options. Do your samples require bags, vials or some other type of container? Since each container type has its different spatial requirements, make certain that you’re using containers that are optimal for both your samples and the limitations of your space. For example, it’s important to ensure that freezer racking is compatible with your containers, and ideally, configurable to a range of container options.
- Consider samples that can be stored at room temperature. Research has shown that dried DNA is stable for years at room temperature. Room temperature storage eliminates the space, ventilation and electrical needs of freezer storage, allowing you to pack more samples in a confined space.
- Optimize space used by other departments and services, too. A biobank is comprised of more than just freezers. There also needs to be space for laboratories, administration offices, shipping and receiving equipment, etc. Thoughtful consideration of the space used by these departments and services will allow you to maximize space for sample storage.
- Consider downstream assays. Many downstream assays are increasingly sensitive and require a smaller volume for analysis, which means samples take up less space. Using the downstream assay may result in storing an overall smaller sample volume for each study, which makes a big difference in maximizing storage capacity.
Making the best use of available space is essential to creating and maintaining an efficient biobank. What have you done to get maximum value from the storage space at your biobank?