Automated Biobanking

The ability to preserve high-quality samples for many decades is fundamental to a successful biobank. Researchers need biobanks to offer them high-quality samples via optimal processing, secure storage, and preservation under the appropriate conditions for the lifetime of the sample.

Automated biostorage systems


Biobanks house collections of human biological specimens, including blood products, cell lines, nucleic acids, and human tissues. Meticulous care and attention must be taken to preserve the integrity and organization of every sample at each step when collecting, analyzing, storing, and distributing biospecimens for research or medical purposes.

Automated biobank solutions offer both quantitative advantages and qualitative benefits to the biobank workflow, such as integrated sample traceability, secure storage, sample preservation and increased retrieval speed.


Types of biobanking and biostorage


DNA/RNA storage

Preserving the integrity of valuable protein samples is essential for ensuring research validity. Only storing the specimens you need at -80°C protects against temperature variations that lead to degradation.

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Protein and antibodies storage

Preserving the integrity of valuable protein samples is essential to ensure research validity. -80°C storage that only picks the specimens you need protects against temperature variations that lead to degradation.

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Plasma and serum storage

Secure -80°C storage with easy access can accommodate a variety of 2D-barcoded tubes to manage multiple liquids for optimal sample integrity.

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Bioparts and glycerol stocks

Storage of bioparts and glycerol stocks must preserve a high level of integrity and offer rapid retrieval with the flexibility of easy integration with downstream automation.

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Frequently asked questions

Advances in automated sample storage and liquid handling technologies are helping to facilitate scalable growth. New internet of things (IoT) technologies and big data analytics are also set to promote biobank sustainability by improving infrastructure and data integration.

The ability to stay competitive in such a niche market depends on investment in new technologies related to growing market trends, including digitization of biobanks and the implementation of automated processes. With funding concerns at front of mind, investment decisions must involve careful consideration and thorough justification.

Automation improves how biobanks store and process samples. Automation systems offer high-density storage capacity and 2D-barcoded tubes for registering, tracking, accessing, and selecting samples – all of which improve the speed and organization of biobanking workflows. Automating some or all of these steps can significantly minimize the costs associated with wasted employee time manually searching for samples!

Current and future storage capacity requirements will determine whether automated solutions represent a viable alternative to manual freezers. Barriers to automation include the significant costs associated with the initial equipment purchase. Initial investment expenses for automation can be five to ten times more than manual operations. The ten-year running costs for fully serviced automated systems are estimated to be between €500,000 to €5 million.

When weighing up the advantages and disadvantages of automation, there are key factors to consider. Labor costs, energy costs, and space considerations are easily measured based on current usage and predicting future needs. Other “softer” factors, such as sample security and integrity, are more difficult to quantify yet are extremely important for the success of the biobank. Advances in automated sample storage and processing have focused on improving these qualitative requirements to make sure biobanks provide researchers with the highest quality samples.

Automation offers convenience while also saving space, energy, and time, and improving sample integrity, traceability, and security. But without a proper cost justification, automation might not be right for every situation.

In order to compare the differences between manual and automated sample retrieval methods, a study was conducted at a UK biobank to establish the average picking time for samples stored in manual freezers. The study found that their store was already 10% fragmented, i.e. had 10% empty space within storage racks from previously retrieved samples. A picking session typically took 10 minutes of preparation time. Individual samples were picked every 26 seconds with a further 10 seconds required per sample for database management. This is a highly organized center and represents a best-case scenario for manual storage and retrieval.

Comparing the cost of manual vs automated storage

Use our calculator to compare the true costs of manual -80°C sample storage with the SPT Labtech arktic automated sample store over a 10-year period.

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How do you justify automated biobanking in your business plan?

While automated processes are known to reduce manual error and provide cost savings for high-throughput applications, it's important to justify a new automated process both operationally and financially.

This whitepaper helps you to evaluate your costs versus potential savings to give you a clear idea of whether automation is the right move.

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Case study

Automated sample processing:

The MRC Epidemiology Center

The MRC Epidemiology Unit in Cambridge, UK, investigates genetic, developmental and environmental factors associated with obesity, type 2 diabetes, and other metabolic disorders. The facility curates and supplies large collections of individual samples for medium to large-scale studies of up to 40,000 samples.

For any biobank, sample archiving is a time-consuming process. While the efficiency of sample retrieval can be increased significantly by pre-sorting samples prior to storage, this requires significant upfront effort that can rarely be achieved with limited resources. In our case study, we set out how the MRC Epidemiology Unit implemented SPT Labtech's arktic -80°C automated store to streamline its workflow to provide a highly organized archive of samples for efficient retrieval.

Learn more about the project


Related products

Our arktic and comPOUND storage systems provide long-term, fail-safe storage solutions for precious samples with easy integration to LIMS.




arktic provides a flexible, affordable and secure -20°C or -80°C automated sample store to meet research demand for increasing volumes of biological samples. Its user-friendly, vending-machine-style design allows for efficient management and access to 2D-barcoded samples, eliminating the need for inefficient manual searching. Using a unique arrangement for tube storage, arktic is more space efficient than other systems, allowing facilities to minimize overheads while assuring sample integrity throughout its life.

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arktic XC is an innovative automated biobanking solution bringing together a network of compact arktic storage units into a single high integrity, affordable and scalable biostorage system. Different locations can be linked using novel and reliable pneumatic technology with direct benchtop access for highly optimized workflows. The modular approach offers facilities ultimate flexibility to increase capacity in line with demand and keep the cost per sample stable while advancing research goals.

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comPOUND provides secure storage for 2D barcoded tubes at -20°C, +4°C, and ambient temperature. Its innovative carousel system delivers high density storage within a small footprint, compact unit and allows for rapid retrieval through the convenient vending machine style design. The modular approach allows facilities to scale flexibly, connecting individual units across locations using innovative and reliable pneumatic transport technology.

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