lab worker in full protective gear opens foggy biobank freezer to retrieve biological samples

Solving the Challenges of Biological Sample Management

For biobanks and laboratories, the importance of streamlined and compliant biological sample management cannot be overstated. Managing biological samples involves numerous challenges, primarily due to the critical nature of the samples, their diverse types, and the need for precise tracking and handling. As the sample inventory being managed grows, the need for software to guide the management and tracking of biological samples compounds. 

With the right software, biobanks can address these challenges while ensuring quality, compliance, and accessibility. Below we explain some of the key challenges of biological sample management and how the right software can help.


Contents: Sample Management Challenges | Solutions for Managing Samples


Challenges of Biological Sample Management:

Sample Integrity and Quality Control:

Individual biological samples are often used repeatedly, by numerous researchers, and for a variety of experiments or tests. Ensuring the integrity and quality of samples over time is crucial, whether with freezer organization or software tracking systems. This includes maintaining optimal storage conditions (like temperature and humidity), preventing contamination, and minimizing freeze-thaw cycles.

Inventory Management:

Biobanks often store a vast number of samples, making it challenging to keep track of their storage location, quantity, availability and expiration. Keeping track of this information for each biological sample can be a daunting task without the help of a sample management system. 

Data Management and Traceability:

Biological samples often have a significant amount of data attached to them. This may include donor information, collection details, processing methods, assay results and usage history. Ensuring this data is accurately linked to the correct sample is vital for research validity. Similarly, the ability to trace the lineage of samples including all aliquots and derivatives is crucial for biobanks and the researchers they support. 

Compliance and Ethical Considerations:

Biobanks must adhere to various legal, ethical, and regulatory standards, which can vary by region and type of research. This includes informed consent, privacy concerns, and data protection laws. Protecting sensitive information while still providing the critical accessibility required by researchers can be a significant challenge for biobanks. 

Accessibility and Sharing:

Facilitating access to samples for researchers while maintaining control and proper documentation is a complex task. This requires fine grained controls and permissions to access samples and their data, and includes managing requests, approvals, and distribution logistics.

Scalability and Adaptability:

As research needs evolve, biobanks must be able to scale their operations and adapt to new types of samples, processing methods and storage technologies. Easily being able to scale to accommodate a higher volume of samples is a critical consideration for biobanks.


How Can Software Help Manage Biological Samples?

Sample management software helps biobanks overcome the challenges of managing a large and diverse collection of biological samples and is essential for modern biobanking. Although not every sample management software is well suited for biobanks, the right sample software should be able to help in the following areas:

Biological Sample Tracking and Management:

Software can assist in the tracking of samples, reducing human error in registering, receiving and locating samples. At a minimum, sample management software should manage inventory in real-time, showing which samples are available, where they are stored, how they have been used and by whom. 

Integrated Data Management:

Sample management software can integrate sample data with associated metadata and experiment results, ensuring that all relevant information is easily accessible and linked to the correct sample. Unifying samples with their associated data also improves the efficiency of research efforts by minimizing the systems where biological sample information is stored. 

Regulatory Compliance and Reporting:

Sample management software can help ensure your lab’s compliance with legal and ethical standards, capturing the who, what, when, where and how of your biospecimen lifecycle. It will maintain proper records and data protection measures and allow easy, but secure, access to these records. Look for options to generate reports for audits and reviews, access and track chain of custody, and flexibly query audit logs

Access and Distribution Management:

Role-based access, permissions and system defined workflows in software can help handle requests for biospecimens, track usage, and ensure proper approvals are in place before sample distribution. Additionally, searchable lab inventories allow the correct team members to quickly locate and check the status of samples, whether they are in use or stored in the freezer.

Scalability and Flexibility:

Good software solutions can scale with the growth of a biobank, providing fast-acting data storage and robust searchability beyond the capabilities of spreadsheets. There’s also built-in flexibility to adapt to new types of samples, higher volumes, and changes in processing methods that naturally occur as a lab or biobank grows.


How Can LabKey Sample Manager Help?

Sample Manager is designed to help labs manage biological samples with ease, tracking the entire lifecycle of your inventory including the registration, receipt, aliquoting, storage, data integration, shipping and chain-of-custody of lab samples. This sample management software can be quickly set up to meet the sample-related workflows and protocols used in your laboratory. 

Learn more and take a tour of Sample Manager here!

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