Biobanking: Your Science, Our Tools
Many years ago, one trend that we noticed working in sample management was that the consumables, equipment and software were becoming easier and easier to use. In the early 90s when new things arrived, everybody in the lab had the question on their lips ‘Will it work?’. By the early 2000’s the question became ‘How easy is it to use’?
Back then, the founders of Ziath were working in the lab advising/implementing informatics and lab automation for scientists in the lab. One thing that was observed, however, is that equipment wasn’t simple to use; Tim Dilks noticed that if a half empty tube rack was placed on the scanner it would freeze and Neil Benn spent all day explaining to customers that to view the results of a scan the operator needed to click a button entitled ‘Show Complete Box’. In addition we noticed that equipment was starting to become more complicated again – equipment was arriving in ‘assay format’. The idea being that the reagents and machinery were supplied together so you mix the biology and machine together. In the supplier industry this is called ‘lock-in’; meaning that you need to keep buying the reagents and consumable from the original supplier. Sometimes, this is not bad if you desire convenience but it can increase costs.
Anyway, I digress – we were getting a bit bored in our day jobs so we said let’s make equipment that is easy to use. To run it you have one big button in the center of the screen and the basic operation requires as little setup as possible while still allowing the flexibility for power users. So, like all naïve entrepreneurs we quit our day jobs and set about making this device. However we ‘got lucky’/’were wise’ (you choose!) and together with Biosero, our products have been adopted for their ease of use both within the US and across the world. This has necessarily obligated other suppliers to reduce complexity and cost of their scanners; we accept this and work to constantly innovate to keep ahead of the field. For consumables, the growth in suppliers of 2D barcoded tubes (including Biosero tubes) has increased quality and decreased cost and we are the now in the same situation in biobanking that we saw in sample management a decade ago. To complete the third section, we launched Samples which is a simple sample management system to answer the basic questions of what is it and where is it. Everything was looking good to allow the science to progress with simple tools.
However, having recently been at conferences, I am starting to note the increase in complexity again. Expensive machinery, ‘enterprise’ informatics, complicated ethics lawyers and claims of various consumable and equipment manufacturers have started to muddy the water – new entrants into the biobanking field are looking at a complicated picture. My opinion is that when you start something; you should start small and then grow. After these initial steps, when you look for more systems such as an automated cold store or automated processing powered by the Biosero Green Button Go automation platform.
So, my advice to someone starting a biobank is to start small, get some 2D barcoded tube racks, a scanner (doesn’t even have to be a rack scanner if you can get the tubes scanned in the first place) and a simple sample management system; either Excel or something like our Samples database system. Then you can store your biologic samples and understand what you need before going out to look for larger systems and more ‘process’ knowledge. You’ll start quicker, be wiser and more knowledgeable as you grow.
I know this isn’t advice normally given by a vendor as most vendors want to you buy lots and lots of stuff! However at Ziath and Biosero we are concerned about providing the tools required to allow you to think about the science rather than such tools. We also don’t make outlandish claims about our products. We know because we used to be in the lab too!
For more information on our Biobanking Solutions, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.