Can Human Biospecimens Be Commoditized?

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All of us at ABS want to make it as easy as possible to do business with us, and we want to provide you with the exact high-quality human biospecimens that will move your research forward. At first glance, a web-store or some sort of online exchange seems suited to this purpose, as such sites currently exist. An online store or similar interface would reduce your costs by eliminating or reducing much of the collaborative service that we provide. The technology to offer this type of platform is also  readily available.

Ample examples of commoditization exist. A computer can be configured online at Amazon, Dell, or many other sites and ordered with only moderate amount of user effort and no human interaction. Why then, don’t we pursue this less labor-intensive approach?

The answer is that human biospecimens are not easily configured as commodities. To state the obvious, not all human donors are alike. They have different demographics, medical and treatment histories, etc. Some of these factors may have a large impact on your research, others less so. Similarly, to obtain large numbers of samples or rare samples, several sites may need to be used. Each site may have somewhat different sample collection methodologies. These in turn affect the suitability of samples for specific applications. Differences in reimbursement fees between sites affect costs. A one size fits all price would need to be higher to account for this.

Some of the variables that must be considered in acquiring human biospecimens are listed below:

  • Informed Consent and Permitted Uses (genetic studies, primary cells ….)
  • Review of Collection Sites IRBs (ethically and legal review, country specific regulations …)
  • Donor Demographics (age, race, sex …)
  • Preservation Methods (interval between collection and preservation …)
  • Pathology Reports (full or partial reports, histology, gene expression data ….)
  • Medical History (full or partial, specific conditions and exclusions ….)
  • Medication History (duration, type, exclusions …)
  • Selection Criteria (sample size, preservation type, % tumor, % necrosis …)
  • Price (customized for prospective collections)
  • QC Requirements (RIN values, histology, IHC ….)

It is evident that there is a lot to consider. This requires a consultative approach or it's far less likely that you will receive samples that best meet your needs. By consulting with our experts, we find you the samples that meet your scientific, budget, and timeline requirements. This approach is far more effective than trying to find something that may work based upon limited information in a price list.

Trying to commoditize biospecimens limits their utility. For example, there is no discussion around how to create a collection that is useful both now and for future studies.  A marketplace creates an atmosphere in which there is no room for creative thinking or problem solving to find samples for research. 

Our goal is to provide you with the best samples possible from our large network of sites based on a clear understanding of what matters to you. Talking with our experts is the easiest and fastest way to accomplish this. This is why ABS continues to focus on providing you with highly customizable solutions that meet your needs.

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