The core of this system is the GenPlate, a high-density, room-temperature storage container for biological samples preserved in the dry state. The GenPlate is a 384-well plate that contains a 6 mm disc of FTA® paper in each of the 384 wells. FTA paper is a macroporous cellulose matrix that is chemically treated to inactivate bacteria and viruses.
Upon application of 10 µL of blood directly to the paper, cells are lysed and DNA is released. The DNA becomes entwined with the fibrous network of the cellulose matrix and is completely dried at room temperature. When DNA is required for downstream analysis, high-quality, double-stranded DNA can be reliably recovered with GenVault’s GenSolve chemistry. DNA has been stored in this format for more than 18 years making it a proven and reliable technology for DNA storage.
GenPlates are fully automatable and compatible with commonly available liquid handlers for sample application. While several hardware solutions for their storage are available, the Genome Quebec Biobank has chosen the Dynamic Archive from GenVault. This is a fully automated system for archiving and retrieving GenPlates at room temperature.
The system utilizes a robot to access the shuttles containing trays on which GenPlates are housed. Dynamic Archives are flexible and customizable to meet varying biosample archiving needs. The storage shuttles are scalable both vertically and horizontally and they also are modular allowing users to add shuttles to increase capacity without investing in additional automation. The Dynamic Archive has a small footprint: 75 million aliquots can be stored in 450 square feet, 300 plates/hour can be processed, and 800+ plates/square foot can be held.
With GenPlates and the Dynamic Archive, the Genome Quebec Biobank will have a fully automated system that will utilize proven technology, resulting in a 10-fold increase in storage capacity relative to freezers at one-third the cost of a comparable -80°C automated freezer room.
Many sample types such as plasma and serum are currently best preserved through liquid nitrogen cryostorage. For these samples collected by CARTaGENE, the Genome Quebec Biobank has chosen a high-security and high-density storage system from Cryo Bio System based on high-security straws, rather than classical cryovials. The decision to choose this system was based on considerations of storage-space savings, preservation, safety, and traceability of the samples.
The straw design allows the biobank to maximize overall storage space efficiency of the LN2 repository by a factor of four. The total capacity for aliquots stored in this format will exceed 6 million.
From a quality and safety standpoint, these straws feature a higher surface-to-volume ratio that enhances the thermal exchange during the freezing process. They are sealed at both ends, making them suitable for long-term storage in the liquid phase of nitrogen (-196ºC) and eliminating the risk of cross-contamination among samples.
Aliquot generation and identification are done in an automated laboratory workflow, using dedicated processing equipment provided by Cryo Bio System. Organization and tracking of the specimens at the Saguenay repository are facilitated by the fact that all physical components of the system (straws and storage elements) are color-coded.
Each straw also bears a tamperproof external jacket on which a “customized” identification is permanently imprinted as part of the workflow. This identification consists of a human-readable alpha-numerical ID number next to its corresponding bar code in high-density linear symbology code-128. Samples stored in this format will also be managed with GenConnect software.
Traditional freezers were chosen for a subset of legacy samples, and a dozen freezers already operating at the Chicoutimi Hospital’s research lab were transferred to the biobank. Samples stored in this format are managed with GenConnect software.
By working together with CARTaGENE, P3G, and other national and international partners to implement sample-storage technologies, the Genome Quebec Biobank boasts high-quality operations and high security standards. The biobank provides long-term storage with mirrored sites for redundancy and flexibility for different user types, storage conditions, and sample types. This biobank has the capacity for tens of millions of samples.
By selecting a combination of storage technologies that maximize space and minimize operating costs, the group has created a sustainable infrastructure that will prove to become an important research resource for many future generations to come.