Biological Sample Storage for labs of any size

An insight into the increasing demand for cold storage solutions connected with lab automation systems

Inpeco enjoys a privileged position on the IVD market, designing hundreds of Total Lab Automation (TLA) layouts every year. Our team of Solution Specialists has recently recorded an increase in demand for automated storage solutions directly connected to laboratory automation systems. As of today, more than 75% of the layouts we produce include a sample refrigerated storage module; three years ago, this ratio was only 60%. What are the factors behind the success of storage modules?

Gigi Minola, Inpeco VP Strategic Partnership, tells us about it:

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“There are a number of reasons for this interest in automating the ‘last mile’ in the analytical process. First of all, the trend toward consolidation of laboratories has resulted in significant growth in the volumes processed in the lab. In addition, there is a greater awareness of total sample traceability, driven by increased awareness of test quality and protection of responsibility. Connecting a refrigerated storage system to the TLA line offers the invaluable benefit of guaranteed traceability and limits the risk of human error.

Most laboratories process a few thousand samples daily, mostly serum, which is the kind of test that requires around 5 days of storage with refrigeration. These labs need a storage capacity of a few thousand samples (from 10,000 to 50,000); there are now several solutions on the market capable of meeting this requirement with fully automated loading/unloading of the archive.

Larger laboratories (the so-called mega labs) have so far used dedicated refrigerated rooms to store samples, but this has some drawbacks: laboratory staff have to pick the samples and access the cold room, thus interrupting the “chain of custody” and the traceability of the sample after completion of the analysis. The ARUP laboratory (Salt Lake City, US) has built a huge room with a cold storage capacity of 2 million samples, entered and retrieved by operators.”

Observing the trend toward consolidation of laboratories and therefore growth of test volumes, some years ago Inpeco designed a solution to fill this gap in traceability for mega labs: the High Volume Storage (HVS) module. This is an automated refrigerated storage system connected to the Lab Automation track; it is usually tailored to the specific needs of the site, which means it has a variable capacity and can be scaled to store a million or more tubes. Like standard modules, the HVS stores samples at a controlled temperature, recalls them for re-run and deletes the specimens after a configurable time based on the test. In addition, it recovers samples in seconds, with a single click, without requiring laboratory personnel to access or operate in refrigerated environments.

“Our installations in a number of the world’s mega labs (Pardini in Brazil, Davita in Florida, Primary in Australia, Quest in the USA) have dramatically reduced the amount of space used for storage and enabled the labs to obtain a 100% traceable sample journey, from arrival to disposal within the lab.”