Long term (i.e. 20 years or even more) storage of biological specimens can be extremely costly to a University especially if the storage requires the use of freezers. Not only do such freezers take up valuable and scarce space but they cost approximately $1000/year per unit in energy expenses alone, not to mention that some of them emit chemicals that are harmful to the environment. In a research intensive university and particularly in the Faculty of Medicine where there is a lot of research using DNA and/or RNA it is of great interest to investigate the alternative to freezing which involves a new technology for room temperature storage. Two companies, namely GenVault (now a part of Integenex) and Biomatrica have both come up with methodologies (Blow 2009) that eliminate the need for freezer storage of these materials. Although such technologies are relatively recent (i.e. there is not a long term experience) the stability of DNA at room temperature and the ease in using it in a number of different applications post storage is impressive and these companies even project stability for the DNA at elevated temperatures such as 60oC (for 30 years, Biomatica) or 76oC (10 years, GenVault) (Wan 2010).
This proposal for a pilot program is multifaceted initially to gather information about the needs of our investigators, discuss the pros and cons for different biobanking and lab information management systems (LIMS) options, run one or more test cases and then a dissemination and education phase that is campus wide. We will involve students at multiple steps as it is the students and post-doctoral fellows that largely conduct the bench work and are our future researchers. Using this approach it is anticipated that we will be able to educate the current biobanking trainees as well as the next generation of purchasing decision makers on the value of “green” and sustainable approaches in the lab.
By eliminating 20% of each the refrigerators, -20°C freezers, and -80°C freezers, McGill could save approximately $15,000 annually for these two buildings alone. By storing biological samples at ambient temperature, which we have demonstrated to be a reliable option, this could easily be achieved.
For further information conerning this project, or to get in touch with its members, please contact the krista.houser [at] mcgill.ca (SPF Administration Team).