Epidemiology

Specimen Collection, Processing, and Management

Social & Scientific Systems provides expert consultation and services for all aspects of biologic and environmental specimen handling, from the design and implementation of specimen collection to specimen receipt, processing, and storage. We currently maintain a Level 2 biosafety laboratory facility, and we have handled more than 2 million specimens for the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS). All receipt, storage, and movement of specimens is tracked via a state-of-the-art specimen inventory database. Our staff includes senior laboratory directors, study managers, and epidemiologists who each have more than 20 years of experience in conducting studies involving specimens.

Protocol Design

  • Expert guidance to investigators designing specimen protocols, including defining assay-dependent hierarchies for specimen collection, collection supplies, appropriate handling, and shipping specifications
  • Consultation with testing laboratories to choose appropriate specimen containers for collection and storage to avoid contaminants and confounding compounds

Specimen Collection and Handling

  • Provision of phlebotomy services and supervision of subcontractors to collect biologic and environmental specimens
  • Supervision of field specimen collection and shipping activities
  • Working with multiple Institutional Review Boards (IRBs) to obtain all necessary approvals for specimen collections

Specimen Quality Assurance

  • Participation in external proficiency panel testing
  • Certification of laboratory staff according to International Air Transport Association (IATA) shipping regulations
  • Performance of laboratory sterility testing
  • A 24-hour emergency readiness plan for freezer and refrigerator failures, including regular maintenance plan, alarm system, and installed CO2 freezer backup systems
  • Specimen repository audits on inventory
  • Good laboratory practices for managing sample collections to maintain integrity and accuracy

Specimen Processing

  • Research, testing, and application of innovative and easy-to-use technologies
  • Standard operating procedures (SOPs) for safely processing biologic and environmental materials
  • Cell separation and lymphocyte isolation, cryopreservation, and certain waived clinical testing, such as chemical urinalysis

Specimen Storage

  • Storage for DNA extraction
  • Maintenance of historical specimen collections, including retrieval and shipment to outside laboratories for further analysis
  • Storage of aliquots using state-of-the-art CryoBios PACE technology to maximize storage space and minimize future freeze and thaw cycles
  • Use of cold storage freezers, including liquid nitrogen, -80o or -20o
  • Collaboration with large, long-term repositories, including regular specimen transfers and use of a shared inventory database
  • Collection and analysis of data to answer questions about various storage conditions and viability of samples

Specimen Tracking

  • State-of-the-art inventory system (BSI-II, managed by an image management system [IMS]) for sample coordination and data management (including inventory of specimens, receipt, and processing of specimens for storage) and tracking specimen movement among contractor, subcontractor, repository, and collaborator sites
  • Use of study-specific specimen identifiers and labeling schemes