Adopting an Organized and Queryable Biospecimen Database

This case study describes the adoption of OpenSpecimen at one of the biggest biobanks in gastroenterology (GI) cancer in an academic center in Pittsburgh. Prior to OpenSpecimen, they used an in-house system to store clinical and specimen data. However, it had several shortcomings which were severely impeding their ability to find specimens of research interest. They needed a system that was capable of housing specimen information and clinical data together. Additionally, they needed the database to allow sample and participant details to be filtered in the same query. The aim was to query for available specimens with desired participant specifications.

Switching to OpenSpecimen

They got to know about OpenSpecimen from their collaborators at the University of Nebraska. The Medical Center at Univerity of Nebraska has been using OpenSpecimen for the past 5+ years. 

“OpenSpecimen’s team handled the data transfer, uploading all our data for us. Overall, the actual conversion was easy, especially because OpenSpecimen entry is so user-friendly” said the Clinical Research Coordinator. She adds, “Our biggest hurdle with the transfer was that the query system was not as sophisticated as it is now, making it difficult to access details about our specimens and participants initially. If an institution were to convert to OpenSpecimen now, it would be a much smoother transition”.

Benefits of using OpenSpecimen

“We needed better organization of both our clinical and specimen data and the ability to easily query which samples are available with desired participant specifications. The custom forms allow us to track any participant information we wish. And the query system not only enables us to see what specimens are available that meet the requesting institution’s clinical data needs but also allows us to exclude all samples of participants who had other samples previously sent to a site. In addition, the lab is able to more effectively pull requested samples with the ability to customize virtual freezer storage and track each aliquot location. Tracking distributed samples is also much easier, as OpenSpecimen’s virtual sample distribution eliminates the need to store countless Excel documents of shipped aliquots and receiving institutions.”- said the Coordinator.

Responsive and Quick Support Team

“OpenSpecimen support is very responsive and quick to investigate and fix issues, particularly when deemed critical. They are always open to constructive criticism, and constantly working to push updates to better the application,” they added.

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