The Importance of Monitoring Biobanking Laboratory Storage

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Challenges with Storage for Biobanking

The storage of highly sensitive materials is an important area to consider for Blood Banks, Tissue Banks, and Biobanks. There are many variables and parameters that must be diligently controlled and monitored at every stage of an organization’s workflows, particularly for the storage of organic material. Storage of invaluable research samples and assets, along with the proper functioning, maintenance and monitoring of storage devices and equipment, all require strict adherence to a multitude of local, state, federal, international, and in some cases, industry specific regulations to prove compliance.

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With stringent regulations to adhere to, establishing proper SOPs that mitigate the risk of malfunctioning storage devices and equipment is a critical practice for biobanking. In the event of a machine or equipment failure, precious samples, assets and time can be lost as an organization tries to respond to the unexpected, adverse event. In some cases, this sets research back months or even years. Without having readily available, comprehensive SOPs in place, appropriate personnel might not be able to respond quickly and efficiently, increasing the potential for loss or future equipment failures.

There are many specific guidelines for the proper operation and maintenance of storage devices and equipment such as refrigerators, freezers, incubators, centrifuges, etc. GxP guidelines indicate that daily, or “date of use”, temperatures for all devices and equipment must be recorded and reported. Whether an organization is storing samples or assets for hours, days, weeks, months, or years, alerts are required for any deviations or anomalies involving out-of-range temperatures or other controlled conditions. There is also the necessity for a disaster recovery plan in the event of any equipment failure. This plan must be appropriately documented with corrective actions detailed for the proper personnel to respond.

Monitoring the plethora of parameters and conditions for storage devices and equipment can become cumbersome, particularly when an organization operates with error-prone, paper-based manual data entry. Even some digital monitoring devices, such as data loggers, carry costly complexities as it pertains to data acquisition, alerts, and reporting.

Manual Reporting for Storage Equipment                     vs.                     Digital Reporting for Storage Equipment

Maintaining Proper Biobanking Storage Environments

Industry leading biobanks routinely refine and update SOPs governing storage areas and equipment. This ensures that the appropriate personnel are trained properly on storage equipment and device operation and maintenance. Making sure all necessary environmental considerations such as temperature, humidity, differential pressure, etc. are consistently controlled. Proper documentation and reporting on any deviations or anomalies is also important for improving SOPs.

All equipment must be properly maintained and calibrated on a routine basis in accordance with standardized procedures. This provides assurance that all equipment is functioning properly and lessens the likelihood of a machine malfunctioning. If any variable falls outside of pre-set parameters, alarms must be in place to alert staff members who can respond in real-time to minimize risks and mitigate any potential loss of assets.

Another important variable to measure for storage areas and equipment, whether it’s for refrigerators, freezers, incubators, cryotanks, or larger storage areas, is temperature mapping. Temperature mapping is the process of measuring the variations in temperature that occur within a controlled system due to influences such as opening doors, proximity to fans, personnel movement, and quantity of products stored in a given location. GxP indicates that to ensure an optimal storage environment, large refrigerators and freezers require adequate temperature mapping at multiple points in the unit. Each unit needs to be maintained for predefined temperature ranges according to manufacturer specifications.

Data that demonstrates an adequate control of ambient conditions, such as temperature, humidity, ventilations, air pressure, and the overall proper functioning of laboratory equipment, should be available for immediate retrieval and analysis. Paper-based systems and data loggers allow for data to be recorded and analyzed, but in an often untraceable and retrospective manner. Without real-time data and notifications, systems like these will only inform an organization of problems and adverse effects on samples and equipment after they occurred.

Industry leading organizations that aim to innovate require real-time monitoring systems that keep easily-accessible historical records to aid in root cause analysis and to identify trends that indicate if equipment needs maintenance before it fails completely. Alarm notifications for equipment or environmental deviations allow for increased organizational awareness and appropriate response measures to be taken in the case of such an event.

Benefits of Implementing a Real-Time Biobank Lab Monitoring System

Whether a valuable biobank sample or asset must be stored for hours, days, weeks, years or decades, organizations that want to understand the benefits of implementing an autonomous, monitoring solution should look at the potential for increased productivity, improved data quality and acquisition, as well as reduced quality and compliance risks. There are a variety of monitoring solutions that can be used for storage areas and equipment, but many are finite solutions only capable of monitoring specific data outputs, and are often difficult to integrate.

Simple, rudimentary sensors or data loggers on the market eventually encounter similar problems as time-consuming, manual data entry. The processes involved with these archaic systems are seldom superior to manual, paper-based tasks and are inadequate for proper reviewing and reporting cycles. Monitoring systems that are robust and scalable are paramount for fast-growing biobanks. A cloud-based platform that is OEM agnostic and capable of monitoring both wired and wireless sensors will ensure that a company is well prepared for any potential problems. Autonomous, real-time monitoring closes gaps in procedures, increases the quality and traceability of an organization’s data, and mitigates common risks found in data loggers and paper-based monitoring practices.

Benefits for Biobank Storage

  • Improved conditions for all storage areas and equipment
  • Enhanced data acquisition and reporting
  • Reduced compliance risks
  • Reduced staff and operational costs
  • Standardized procedures for complex monitoring of storage equipment
  • Data traceability and accountability
  • Improved adherence to SOPs
  • Multiple levels of redundancy in power, connectivity and alarm escalation protocols
  • Real-time notifications for any deviations, anomalies or alarms
  • Monitor every sensor, every detail, every second