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Share Your Samples at a Reagent Repository

Posted in: Organization and Productivity
People sharing food around a table showing benefits of sharing resources

Finding the right source for data sets, reagents, tissue sets, engineered cell lines, animal models or plasmids to use in your research can be challenging. However, reagent repositories will help make your search easier. That’s because they are large repositories where scientists from all over the world offer up their samples for quick access and use in new discoveries. You can begin on a new research project right at the point where others have left off – all without having to reinvent the wheel!

Sharing is caring, as they say. So, here is why you should not only collaborate when sourcing your reagents but also collaborate by sharing your reagents through a repository.

1. More Science, Less Waste

Where do unused samples go at the end of a project? Into long term storage; so, unless those extra samples are utilized again in the future, they will eventually be discarded to make way for your next project. When you share samples through a repository you are ensuring that all of your samples have the opportunity to be purposefully used by others and not unnecessarily wasted. That makes the best use of time, money and resources for everyone.

2. No More Hassles with Distributing Samples

Consider the effort it takes to distribute items from your lab. First, you have to advertise by word of mouth, email, through collaboration or at talks and conferences. Then you need to undergo recurring training so that hazardous and biohazardous materials are shipped according to dangerous goods regulations. And of course, you will have to manage a supply of packing materials and pay for shipping each time. All while coordinating logistics, transfer agreements import/export rules and other red tape to ship locally, nationally and internationally. (That’s a lot of work!)

Repositories make sharing your reagents effortless. Generally, all you have to do is package and label your samples according to defined requirements. Then complete a blanket material transfer or technology transfer agreement, pay a fee depending on the desired service or storage type, pay to ship the entire set of reagents to their facility only once and voila! The repository handles all of the hard work with storage and distribution – yes, even internationally – for you.

3. Robust Ethics and Quality Control

A repository customarily tests samples upon receipt to ensure that the sample is of high quality and free of select contaminants. They will also perform inventory control and track with a barcode. Anyone who requests your samples after that is more than able to independently verify published works. That is an extra layer of impartiality to ensure reliable results.

4. Increased Citations

For every sample used, scientists like to give credit where credit is due, resulting in an increase of citations for you!

5. Easier Regulatory Compliance

Repositories with International Organization for Standardization (ISO) and current Good Manufacturing Processes (cGMP) compliance provide a valuable service that ensures complete documentation and proper tracking of every sample in preparation for all audits.

6. Reliable Storage

Bank your samples at a repository not only to share them more quickly with others but also to ensure an off-site, backup set in case of equipment failure in the lab. Storage options at the repository are plentiful – and meticulously monitored to keep your samples in the right environment for as long as they are there.

7. Material Transfer Agreements Made Easy

An expectation of a happy collaboration can quickly turn into a very complicated one without a signed material transfer agreement. The MTA is a legal document that explicitly spells out how others can use your samples. It protects you, your organization, the repository, and the samples. And you won’t have to create this document from scratch as your organization and each repository will have fillable forms available for general samples, biological samples and human samples separately.

While you can customize an MTA for each specific need, it will typically detail the following topics:

  • Ownership remains with you, but you are providing samples as a convenience to others for research.
  • Acknowledgments that define how others should cite you and give credit when publishing.
  • AS-IS, of course, samples are not guaranteed or warranted and may be hazardous.
  • For basic research use only, not for clinical studies or use with human subjects.
  • Usage guidelines to describe how many end users can work with the samples and any specific endpoints.
  • Not for sale; non-commercial use only.

For other uses, such as with animal models, there may be a special section included that details permission given (or restricted) concerning the model’s lifecycle. In some cases, breeding may not be permitted. In other cases, breeding may be allowed with limitations. A typical caveat if you can have a breeding colony is that the offspring produced can be utilized only by you. This means you are able to order the minimum number of breeder pairs.

A Few Examples of Biological Reagent Repositories

Name a sample type – and there’s more than likely a repository that exists to share it. Below, I’ve listed some of the popular repositories that you may already know by name, have collaborated with or even done business with as part of your research. Even if you don’t send or receive samples through them, they provide other valuable core services, too!

BRCStored Sample typesServices
The Jackson Laboratories (JAX)Mouse models



Strain Distribution







...and more
CRISPR/Cas9 genome editing

Custom nucleic acids

Microbe authentication

Mycoplasma testing

STR Profiling



Data Hub

Vector Database

Loyalty program
UK BiobankDeidentified health data


Genetic Data

Imaging Data
Mayo Clinic BiobankHuman subject data


Buffy coat


Analytic Laboratory Services

Biospecimens Accessioning and Processing Core

Pathology Core

You have experienced the impact that regularly sharing your knowledge, your staff and yes, even your protocols have on advancing great science. Make a habit of sharing your samples, too, and great opportunities for collaboration will abound!

Have you utilized the services of a biological reagent repository as either a recipient or a contributor? How well did the process work for your research? Share in the comments below!

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