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How to Select a Cell Culture Service Provider

As one might expect, selecting a provider for cell culture services has many things in common with selecting other types of services providers. There are also factors that are specific to cell culture. This post describes both general and specific criteria and how you can tell in advance that those criteria are likely to be met.

In the general sense, we all want high quality along with delivery as fast as possible and responsive customer service. The question is how can you know in advance that you aren’t wasting your time and money? For cell culture services, there are several indicators of quality, speed, and responsiveness:

  • Quality
    • How long has the provider been in business? Companies come and go. If they can sustain and grow over a long period of time, it is a good indicator that they must be doing something right. Founded in 1990, ABS continues to grow and improve.
    • Does the company provide measures of cell quality with orders? At ABS, all cell culture orders undergo Mycoplasma and sterility testing along measuring cell viability. Cell line ID data are provided upon request.
    • Does the company have SOP’s and work instructions for the work they perform? ABS maintains a database of all processes. These are available for audit.
    • Is the provider audited by external organizations that evaluate quality? ABS is ISO9001:2015 certified.
  • Speed
    • Does the provider have the capacity to do the work? ABS has several large cell culture labs and is investing over $10 million in a new facility.
    • Does the company have the personnel to do the job? ABS is continuously hiring and training new staff, as well as having many experienced staff who have been with us for over 10 years.
    • Do they provide estimates of turnaround times? ABS does. In most cases, we start culturing cells within 4 days of their receipt. This means turnaround times are similar to doing the work in your laboratories with the benefit of not actually having to do it.
  • Responsiveness
    • Does the company have a dedicated client service team? ABS does along with scientists who can provide technical assistance. Clients are assigned a client services representative upon placing an order, and they stay with the same representative over time. This builds familiarity with the client and their needs.
    • Does the company have a client web portal? ABS does. There, we provide regular updates for our clients in addition to the personal communications with our client services team. We also regularly contact our clients to keep the informed of order status.
    • Responsiveness also includes transparency. We keep you informed and those rare instances when something doesn't go as expected, we let you know so that there are no surprises.

In addition to elements that are common to service providers, there are certain factors that one should consider when seeking a cell culture service provider. Some of these are directly related to cell culture. Others include value-added services.

Related to cell culture specifically, cell culture providers should include:

  • Mycoplasma detection,
  • Sterility testing
  • Viability measures
  • Cell ID

Data from these tests should be reported for all cell lines. ABS provides all of this on a secure web portal, and we can upload files and data to your databases and electronic notebooks.

In addition, to the above essentials for cell culture work, there are many related services that are very useful to have available from a single provider. For example, ABS can provide primary cells, engineer new cells lines with CRISPR and other technologies, bank your cells in our biorepository, prepare membranes for receptor binding assays, extract DNA and RNA, perform Westerns, analyze cell markers with flow cytometry, and much more. We’d love to hear from you about your cell culture processes and projects and discuss how we can add value.

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