Freezerworks: Managing 1 Million Aliquots at The Johns Hopkins Biological Repository

During 2012, the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health (JHSPH) established the Johns Hopkins Biological Repository (JHBR) to support large population based studies addressing public health issues such as HIV/AIDS, Viral hepatitis, Autism, COPD, vaccine trials and others.

Johns Hopkins Biological Repository: An Academic Model

During 2012, the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health (JHSPH) established the Johns Hopkins Biological Repository (JHBR) to support large population based studies addressing public health issues such as HIV/AIDS, Viral hepatitis, Autism, COPD, vaccine trials and others. 

For several years prior, the Department of Epidemiology devised a plan that would house the existing repository specimens in an off-site facility and free up space in the main building where the repository has resided and grown rapidly since 1984.  The goals were to provide a safe and trusted resource for investigators to store valuable specimens from small and large research studies, to have sufficient capacity for growth over the next ten years, to have a fiscally sound plan and to support the School’s “Go Green” initiative. 

The new facility located 3 miles from the JHSPH consists of 6,300 square feet of space housing up to 80 high efficiency liquid nitrogen freezers. This core facility will provide much needed scientific services for a large number of public health related studies through a centralized service center and core laboratories.

 

To date, 60 Taylor-Wharton freezers are currently in use and contain biological specimens stored in vapor phase nitrogen. Taylor-Wharton’s state-of-the-art cryogenic LN2 freeze technology replaced older mechanical freezers and have the capacity to maintain more than 4.5 million biological specimens at temperatures to -190 degrees C.  

JHBR laboratories are certified through the Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendment (CLIA) and the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, Office of Health Care Quality perform diagnostic testing services for virological and serological markers of infectious diseases.

The new JHBR repository is equipped with workstations capable of launching inventory database via a server housed at JHSPH and managed by the Office of Information Systems.  JHBR, Taylor-Wharton, and Airgas (LN2 supplier) have built in multiple safety and sample integrity systems including redundant temperature/liquid level sensors and oxygen monitoring systems.  All of these work in tandem with the building wide security system to alert personnel within minutes of facility malfunctions. Also, each Taylor-Wharton freezer is equipped with Taylor-Wharton’s KRYOS control with battery back-up. The facility has a building-wide natural gas back-up generator allowing for full operation.  This system is installed and set to pick-up power from the main grid in less than 10 seconds following power disruption, and will maintain power support until consistent/stable grid power is restored.  All of these systems were designed and implemented in an effort to avoid sample loss due to natural disaster.

In addition to storage services, JHBR’s staff of nearly 25 faculty, full and part-time staff and students are able to provide a catalogue of services that include, but are not limited to: specimen collection, serum/plasma fractionation, cell isolation and cryopreservation, DNA/RNA extraction from saliva, blood, placenta tissue and dried blood spot cards, and shipping and receiving of biological samples nationally, as well as internationally.  The new facility contains a Biosafety Level 2 laboratory for on-site specimen handling and processing.  

During the recent Superstorm Sandy, JHBR staff provided assistance to the School of Medicine after a research building flooded and lost power.   JHBR responded immediately, rescued and transferred of thousands of samples to the new repository.   Samples were returned safely to the School of Medicine two months later.   

What has been learned from Superstorm Sandy, Hurricane Katrina, and the loss of power to the pediatric brain repository at Harvard is that repository facilities must consider power back-up, height of facility from flood plain, access to specimens during catastrophic events, and qualified emergency response staff.

Pictured left to right: Dr. Homayoon Farzadegan, Stacey Cayetano, Brett Purinton, Samantha Bragan, Paula Mercado, Akila Hadji, Ginnie Khoza, Tara John, Nora Douglas, Shannon Carley, David Kelly.

Learn about the use of Freezerworks to manage the biorepository here.

Visit the JHBR website for more information: www.jhsph.edu/biorepository.