eLabBlog

Sample Strategy: A New Perspective on Lab Operations

By Zareh Zurabyan 4 min read 08 Aug 2023

Labs and organizations never skimp on developing a solid, well-researched business strategy. 

However, the starting point for data, intellectual property, and scientific publications – biological and/or chemical samples – are often ignored during strategic planning meetings,  falling by the wayside as a byproduct of overall lab operations. 

With the introduction of the Sample Strategy, this is changing. Here, we present to you a new perspective on lab operations, where Sample Management becomes the foundational fabric of the lab, enabling the future-proofing of operations. 

Let’s start with what a sample strategy is.

What is a Sample Strategy?

In a laboratory setting, a sample strategy refers to a systematic plan for handling, processing, and analyzing samples. It involves defining a study’s objectives, determining the type and number of samples required, and establishing the appropriate collection methods, storage conditions, and handling protocols. A well-designed sample strategy ensures the reliability and reproducibility of experimental results, minimizes potential biases, and maximizes the efficiency of laboratory resources.

To help you formulate your sample strategy, let’s focus on some key questions to consider throughout the lifecycle of a sample.

Sample Selection

This involves determining the appropriate type and number of samples to be collected. It considers factors such as the purpose of the study, the environmental, biological, or chemistry specimen being sampled, and any specific criteria or guidelines that need to be followed.

Key Questions

  • What are your sample types?
    • Cell lines? 
    • Plasmids
    • Antibodies
    • Biospecimens? 
    • Chemicals?
    • Live animals or plants?
  • What are the metadata fields that you keep track of?
    • Date of the collection? 
    • Sequence
    • Passage number
    • SMILES code
    • GeneBank file
  • What files, images, and references must be linked to your sample? 

Sample Collection

This step involves physically obtaining the samples according to pre-determined protocols. It may include techniques such as sampling from a larger batch, using specialized equipment or instruments, or following specific procedures to ensure consistency and accuracy.

Key Questions

  • Are you using automation-like scanners, QR Codes, mobile apps, and/or pre-barcoded tubes for collection? 
  • Do you plan on labeling your samples after the fact? If so, which printers are you using?
  • Can you easily collect, move, and update your samples? 

Sample Storage

Proper storage of samples ensures long-term stability and maintenance of sample integrity. It can involve sample dilution in a new buffer, cryoprotectant, or lyophilization before storage. In addition, the temperature and storage container are both considerations for your sample strategy.

Key Questions

  • Where are you physically storing your samples (e.g., fridge, freezer, cryotank, etc.)
  • Where are you storing digital information associated with your samples?
  • Do you monitor the temperature and the viability of your samples? 

Sample Handling

Proper handling of samples is also crucial to maintain their integrity and prevent contamination or degradation. This may include labeling, preservation, storage conditions (e.g., temperature, humidity), and transportation considerations. Adhering to standard operating procedures (SOPs) is important to maintain the quality of the samples.

Key Questions

Sample Preparation and Protocol Management

Depending on the analysis required, samples may undergo certain preparation procedures before testing. This could involve sample grinding, dilution, extraction, filtration, or other techniques to make the samples suitable for analysis.

Key Questions

  • What SOPs are you using to prepare and process your samples?
  • Is there a clear version control of your protocols and an approval process?
  • Are your prep assays standardized and auditable? 
  • What instruments will you be using, what will be the output files of your samples, and how do you plan on analyzing that data? 

Documentation and Recordkeeping

A comprehensive sample strategy includes proper documentation and recordkeeping throughout the entire process. This includes recording sample information, collection dates, handling procedures, deviations or incidents, and other relevant data.

Key Questions

Do you have a proper Electronic Lab Notebook (ELN) to reference the sample-related experimental design and data analysis? 

Analysis Plan

The sample strategy also encompasses an analysis plan outlining the methods, techniques, and instruments to analyze the samples. It may include specific testing protocols, quality control measures, and data analysis approaches to ensure accurate and meaningful results.

Key Questions

  • What software do you use to analyze your large CSV files?
  • Do you use AI and ML for your sample data analysis? 
  • Do you have a long-term data analysis plan?

Conclusion

Samples go through a predictable life cycle and have a lifespan – just like our cars, lab equipment, and bodies! You must oil your car, calibrate your instruments, and have a healthy diet and exercise regimen to maintain everything properly! 

Samples are no different. A successful lab must have a short- and long-term strategy for its samples, from collection to analysis and beyond. 

We are here to assist you with that. If you’d like to find the best answers to the questions above, schedule a free personal demo today! 

Note: Consider looking into Sample360 – this will help you to define a Sample Strategy while incorporating your lab’s instruments into the mix! 

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