By Sonia Houghton, CEO, Cryosphere

As Covid-19 spreads across the globe and governments worldwide are desperately trying to heed learnings from how China, Italy and other countries have managed the containment of the virus, the population is left trying to keep up with the latest recommendations to protect ourselves, our families, friends, colleagues, wider community and our businesses.

In a pandemic such as this, where there is no vaccination or treatment, the only defence we have is human behaviours to safeguard people, and it is no different for our businesses. One thing we know for sure, Covid-19 is not going away, and our best way to survive this situation is to be prepared. For the bioscience industry there are several things that we should all be doing now to prepare for a worse-case scenario. Alongside mitigating resource constraints, it is important that you have considered the safety of your biological samples.  This crisis will pass eventually and some of us will be able to work through it.  Either way we all want to be able to pick up our work and continue to work effectively.

Risk management for the storage and logistics management of biological samples is key to any laboratory.  We strongly advise our research colleagues to consider the following actions:

  • Store all high value samples, e.g. patient material, archival banks of cells, glycerol stocks etc, in storage units monitored by validated laboratory monitoring system(s), providing 24/7/365 alerts for any temperature deviations.
  • Carry out an end-to-end stress test on your monitoring system to check it is working properly. Are personnel’s call out details correct on the system? Have you assigned low risk staff to manage callouts and backup?
  • Have you got back up storage units, e.g. freezers, to transfer samples to if one fails? If not, do you have a disaster recovery plan?
  • Clean and service your storage units now, to ensure they are operating optimally. Hoover the filter on -80 °C freezers, as dust places additional load on the compressor, and is also a fire risk.
  • Did you want to ship samples anywhere? What is your courier’s Covid-19 mitigation plan?
  • Most international cold chain logistics are sent via passenger airlines. Do you need to expedite shipments, or hold them off? Work with premium logistics providers to risk assess your shipment. Is there automatic replenishment of dry ice? What if customs enter lockdown during your shipment transfer? What are your courier’s terms and conditions?
  • Should these mitigation steps fail, have you got insurance to cover the loss of your samples and the impact of that loss to your business?