Using a LIMS to Manage Fish Milt Samples for Commercial Fisheries and R&D

One bank in Massachusetts doesn’t hold any money—but its security and management are just as tight. It is a biobank.

Cryogenetics is a biobanking company which focuses on preserving aquatic genes. The banked material is fish milt (sperm). The fish milt is collected from zebrafish for genetic research, and other, much larger fish for use in commercial fisheries. Cyrogenetics uses the Core LIMS in its biobanking operation to manage hundreds of thousands of samples for both its commercial fish farm clients and those involved in R&D-based zebrafish operations. Cryogenetics’ Core LIMS system is deployed in the cloud using AWS, with the benefit of no on-site infrastructure costs.

Data Collection and Sample Management

A zebrafish produces 1 ul (1/1000 ml) of milt while larger fish species produce larger  volumes, all of which creates hundreds of derivative samples that require accurate and secure tracking. The standard set of metadata differs by fish species and purpose of collection.

Milt samples at Cryogenetics' biobanking facility

Milt samples at Cryogenetics’ biobanking facility

Since zebrafish are important for research, allele or gene mutations must also be noted for scientific relevance in addition to milt quality and quantity. A standard milt sample will have the following information tracked within the LIMS: full specimen lineage, including parent-child relationships, fish name/ID, date of birth, stock number, concentration (sperm density), post-thaw sperm motility, storage/inventory locations, and more.

All clients have samples stored in their own individual storage dewars. Finfish aquaculture customers are actively looking for samples and using them. They will add samples to, and remove samples from, the system at regular cycles based on spawning seasons. The LIMS system handles multiple deposits and withdrawals from the same customer with great precision. The customers are kept aware of their supply of samples and their storage availability, as well as updated with status reports on the sample results for every fish. Status reports are created automatically for clients, and monthly internal operations overviews are prepared for management.

A LIMS to Handle Biosecurity in Biobanks

Cryogenetics has very strict policies for biosecurity and physical separation of samples – this security is equally important when it comes to handling the data associated with the samples. The facility houses hundreds of thousands of samples at any one time. Many of Cryogenetics’ customers work in regulated environments, so the biobank must comply with these regulations as well. Its strict biosecurity policies, combined with the full inventory tracking and traceability from the Core LIMS, make it possible to deliver full chain of custody compliance reports for customers.

All fish milt, whether it is shipped to the facility or are acquired on premises, is stored with related meta-data intact and readily available. To help ensure biosecurity, each client has its own storage vessel and the client retains ownership of the sample. Customers want secure, private access to their data, and the LIMS system provides this visibility.

“I like all the ways that you can manipulate data on Core,” said Cryogenetics Laboratory Manager, Carrie Carmichael. “If I want to move something from here to there, that’s all really well set up on Core. You can check off a number of samples and move them…Whether I have samples stored here or at another location, I can track that and I can look back and see what date they were moved.”

The addition of the Core LIMS to the Cryogenetics facility has allowed the organization to eliminate manual spreadsheets while managing samples consistently and safely in a centralized database. The ability to pinpoint the location of a sample instantaneously is beneficial for tracking and tracing the samples for regulatory compliance as well as for rapid customer service.

Configurable LIMS to Meet Changing Biobanking Needs

When changes to the system are needed, users within the facility can make configuration modifications, without the need for outside programmers to create custom code. This flexibility is important because new clients often request specific attributes to be added to their samples for tracking and reporting. This flexibility was integral to Cryogenetics’ decision to use the Core LIMS. Not only is it important for customer service, but biobanking standards and compliance needs are continually evolving, so the company wanted to be able to make needed changes to the system in real-time. “It’s easy for someone who doesn’t have programming experience to get on and figure it out,” said Carmichael.