For anyone doing research in biomedicine or a related area, it can be a continuing problem to source necessary biospecimens. Unlike other lab supplies or equipment, sourcing biospecimens generally requires more work than merely selecting and ordering the item online. We know that research projects have been delayed or even abandoned because necessary biospecimens could not be acquired in a timely manner.
In our experience, these are the five main reasons why scientists are unable to source the biospecimens they need. In many cases, a combination of two or more of these factors causes a severe problem.
1. Can’t Find a Provider
Some common biospecimens are relatively easy to find, but as the list of criteria increases in length and complexity, the number of providers tends to quickly diminish. When the rejections from providers start piling up, you may need to consider altering your request, or even modifying your research plan.
2. Cost is Too High
Even when a provider can be found for the exact samples required, their price quote can be outside the researcher’s budget. This is often the case for difficult-to-source biospecimens, but it can also happen with more common samples. The only alternative is to find other providers, get multiple quotes, and hope that one of them can meet all your requirements at a lower cost.
3. Timeline is Too Long
Sometimes you can’t find a provider with banked samples that match your request. This could be because you didn’t search widely enough, because your sample request was unnecessarily restrictive, or because you genuinely need samples collected prospectively. In the first two cases, the solution could be to conduct a wider search with an improved sample request. In the third case, if the quoted timeline for collection is too long, the solution could be to proactively manage the sample collection process, or to split the request between two providers.
4. Shipping is too Expensive / Complicated / Risky
Shipping biological samples across international borders, or even within a large country like the USA or Canada, requires its own special skill set that can only be gained through experience. The best air carrier to use between the UK and USA may not be reliable between the UK and Canada, or between Belgium and the USA. If the sample delivery is time-critical (e.g. on dry ice), a tradeoff between cost and risk of failure may be necessary. Often researchers do not have the experience to make an informed decision in this area, when large amounts of money and the delay of a research project are at stake.
5. Contracts / Paperwork is too Time-Consuming
Some sample providers have complicated contract requirements that force you to make repeated referrals to your organization’s legal department. For example, they may require you to sign a blanket contract before they begin work on your first sample request, then an additional specific contract with unique terms every time you accept a quote from them to provide samples. We know of cases where this paperwork exchange took months of negotiations, when the samples could otherwise have been delivered in a week.
How SampleSmart Can Help Source Biospecimens
At SampleSmart, we believe that sourcing biospecimens doesn’t need to be hard. We have built up a knowledge of the world’s suppliers, sample costs, and the expected timelines for delivering every type of biospecimen. We also have considerable experience with biospecimen shipping logistics, and negotiating all the necessary contracts and paperwork.
If you need biospecimens for your R&D work, just fill out our request form. Let us source your biospecimens. It’s what we’re good at.
Check out our article on The Advantages of Outsourcing Biospecimen Procurement.