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Biospecimen Repository and Processing Lab

Biospecimen Repository and Processing Lab services

The Biospecimen Repository and Processing Lab has been in operation since 1996 providing investigators within and outside the LTRI, with accurate, well annotated, high quality biospecimen processing, storage and shipment for their research needs and is located in the Lunenfeld-Tanenbaum Research Institute. We are affiliated with Pathology and Laboratory Medicine at Mount Sinai Hospital. The facility is managed by Teresa Selander B.Sc. MLT (Molecular Genetics) and is staffed with 4 technicians. Having dedicated staff to manage freezers and resources for investigators enhances the security and integrity of their resource.

The Ontario Familial Breast Cancer Registry, Ontario Cancer Genetic Network, Sarcoma Tissue Bank, Ontario Familial Colon Cancer Registry, Familial Gastrointestinal Registry, the Ontario Pancreas Cancer Study, the Ontario Health Study and the Ontario Birth Study are the major studies for which biospecimens are processed and stored.

The Biospecimen Repository and Processing Lab provides services to process biospecimens such as blood, saliva, urine, tumour tissue (fresh frozen or paraffin embedded tissue) as well as isolate DNA or RNA from these source samples. The fully automated robotic aliquoting system (Tecan freedom evo) is used for aliquoting biospecimens for large scale studies. Manual aliquoting and processing systems are used for smaller studies which allows for customization. The robotic DNA extraction system (Tecan freedom evo) utilizes Promega’s Reliaprep chemistry to extract DNA from 3 to 10 milliliters of blood or 5 milliliters of saliva samples. This automated system incorporates DNA quantiation by both spectrophotometry and fluorometry. Manual extraction protocols are available when smaller DNA yields, such as paraffin embedded tissue, is expected.

Upon request, biospecimens are assembled and provided to researchers with proper approvals.

The laboratory and freezer storage facility occupies 2,808 square feet and has capacity to house 21 large liquid nitrogen freezers. There are currently 17 freezers in place and 15 are in use. Liquid nitrogen is piped in from a bulk tank outside the building though vacuum jacketed piping. Our 15 liquid nitrogen freezers have internal alarms that display temperature and liquid nitrogen levels. Should any fall out of range, the external freezer monitoring alarm system (REES) alerts our staff 24 hours a day 7 days per week, who then respond immediately. By having controlled access to the freezers, sample integrity is maintained at all times. Back up freezers are available should one fail. All equipment is maintained through monthly and yearly quality control procedures and preventative maintenance contracts exist for all freezers and equipment.

The laboratory complies with laboratory accreditation programs thus all our procedures are documented and adhered to following established programs. All documents are controlled through a document management system.

Biospecimen processing and storage data is managed with an in house database (Biospec) constructed in Microsoft SQL and is maintained on a Lunenfeld-Tanenbaum Research Institute informatics network server which is located off site and is maintained by LTRI computer support staff. The server is backed up nightly and monitored 7 days a week, 24 hours a day and backup tapes are stored off site. The computer systems are supported by the LTRI computer support staff. Should any components fail for any reason, repairs, replacements, and recovery will begin immediately.
Access to any computer requires password-controlled log on, and is available only to laboratory personnel. All staff sign a confidentiality agreement upon employment. The database is only accessible from selected BSR computers via an additional password. Informatics support is provided by an IT specialist from the University Health Network.

To reduce the possible error rate of data entry, all new specimens (blood and tissue samples, DNA extractions, paraffin blocks etc) on an individual study participant are accessioned from a patient data form. This utilizes critical patient identifiers (name, birth date, CFRBCS number etc), and reduces data entry. All samples are bar coded and the unique de identified patient and sample identifiers are also printed on the label. Several different techniques of data validation are employed. First, drop-down menus are utilized to validate data that are in the form of codes or other finite values. Second, some fields have a defined set of allowable values that limit the possibilities of data entry and it is not possible to make entries that do not match these allowable values. All data entries into forms are verified by viewing the information in a table format. Reports are submitted to study groups to enable verification of key identifiers.