Traditional methods for collection, processing, distribution, and long term storage of biological materials for biomedical research, including DNA, RNA, proteins, cells, and tissues, depend on continuous access to various levels of cold storage (4°C, -20°C, -80°C, or liquid nitrogen), which poses a considerable operational challenge for field-forward missions and an interminable resource burden (energy/cost) for conventional laboratories. Recent technological advancements now permit reduced cold-chain requirements for these processes.
To highlight the very latest advances in ambient temperature stabilization of biological samples for biomedical research and explore possible campus interagency collaborations, the Scientific Interaction Subcommittee of the National Interagency Confederation for Biological Research sponsored a scientific forum at the Frederick National Laboratory for Cancer Research auditorium Mar. 29. The intent of this forum was to provide a venue for spirited and productive discussion amongst industry providers of biostabilization technologies and the wide spectrum of potential stakeholders/end-users of their products.
More than 80 people attended the forum that was organized by representatives of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one of the seven NICBR partner agencies. CDC's participation in the NICBR provides partners access to their unique expertise in advanced environmental microbiology. Dr. Gregory Buzard, CDC's on-site liaison to the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases, kicked off the forum, emphasizing the enormous energy and cost savings associated with a reduction in cold-chain requirements for biomedical research.
Keynote speaker Dr. Rolf Muller, co-founder and Chief Scientific Officer of Biomatrica, Inc., then described his process for identifying biostability molecules using a combinatorial chemistry approach to screen synthetic chemical libraries for applications to stabilize biological samples, saying, "Nature has figured it all out for us; all we have to do is learn from nature.."
Successful development of biostabilization reagents able to preserve biological samples at ambient temperature for prolonged periods of time (years) will not only reduce long-term costs, but also conserve energy, revolutionize sample storage concepts, and facilitate transfer and shipping of materials (no dry ice!).
While the potential impact of biostabilization technologies on biomedical research moving forward is astounding, consider the 15 million or so specimens currently stored in the roughly 77,000 sq. ft. FNLCR biorepository that houses 800 or more freezers-- what happens to them? Dr. Mark Cosentino, Head of the FNLCR BioProcessing Laboratory and Project Manager of the FNLCR Biorepository, provided an insightful perspective on the challenges of applying emerging biostabilization technologies to existing repository specimens, citing significant concerns (e.g., manifold risks associated with adding biostabilization reagents to repository archives) that require consideration early and often as these technologies develop.
Speakers throughout the day-long event also included scientists from IntegenX Corporation, BEI Resources/ATCC, the National Cancer Institute Clinical Molecular Profiling Core, Quanta Biosciences, Solis BioDyne, Bioneer, Naval Research Labs, Xoma, and the NIH Microbiome Working Group. The morning session provided a powerful dialogue between the world's leading developers of solutions for biostabilization and two of our nation's premier biorepositories to ensure that the end-users, scientists and clinicians, will continue to have access to biomaterials of high integrity that are stored and distributed for them.
The afternoon session featured discussion of specific biostabilized assays (nucleic acid and protein assays) and ongoing efforts to extend the shelf lives of national stockpiles of therapeutic drugs, vaccines, and antibodies, in addition to biodefense assays that each year end up in the incinerator as they reach their expiration date.
Quarterly symposia sponsored by the NICBR provide ongoing opportunities for the Fort Detrick scientific community to interact, exchange information on the research being done by each of the partners, and share technology and capabilities. Next on the horizon is the SIS Forum highlighting NICBR Scientific Collaborations, scheduled for 8 May at the FNLCR auditorium (Building 549); details are forthcoming.