Implementation at University of Maryland Biorepository

About UMM Biorepository

The University of Maryland School of Medicine established a biorepository intending to provide the resources and support for large-scale studies. They aim to empower basic and clinical researchers to make discoveries in genomics and ‘omics’ sciences and translate these discoveries to more effective diagnostics and therapeutics. Currently, the UMM Biorepository has data of 28000+ participants and 400000+ specimens. During the pandemic, they also started 2 COVID related projects, for which they collected specimens of 8000+ participants at various time points.

The UMM biorepository offers a secure and managed environment for biospecimen processing, storage, and distribution. The data connected to the samples are obtained through the electronic health record and/or study-specific data collection, allowing for multi-disciplinary research to impact various health issues.

UMM has been using OpenSpecimen since 2017 as their Biobanking LIMS along with integration with Hamilton BiOS for robotics-based automated storage management.

Biospecimen Projects

Currently, UMM collects specimens for the following projects:

  1. UM genetics biobank studyThe Program for Personalized and Genomic Medicine (PPGM) mission is to advance discovery in genomics, accelerate research, and implement discoveries into more effective and safe health care. Reliable biospecimens (DNA, plasma, and serum) with linked clinical data are made available to qualified investigators by submitting a request for sample use to the biorepository.  
  2. Investigator driven studies (iDrive): This includes studies across the University of Maryland (42 PIs from 24 divisions). They collect various types of specimens; some are study-specific data collection with EMR data link.
  3. Amish Complex Genetic disease research program: Dr. Alan Schuldiner started this program in 1995. It has a large cohort of around 9500+participants with genotype and associated phenotype data in cardiovascular risk, diabetes, aging, bone health, and wellness.

Integration with Robotics Freezer

Hamilton BiOS is an automated storage system specifically designed to store sensitive biological samples at -80°C throughout their lifecycle. It can accommodate over 900,000 specimens. It also records a full audit trail and temperature log for all the specimens.

UMM biorepository uses BiOS for automated storage and retrieval of specimens.

OpenSpecimen is integrated with BiOS using APIs and achieves the following:

  1. Pre-registering barcodes during specimen collection
  2. Retrieve one or more specimens in one-click
  3. Traceability and audit log of storage and retrieval

High-Level Workflow in OpenSpecimen

OpenSpecimen is used to create customized collection protocols to match various study needs. Below is the workflow followed at the biorepository:

  1. Collect biospecimens under different protocols
  2. PIs query and add specimens to cart or send a request through email
  3. Message with list of requested specimen barcodes is sent from OpenSpecimen to BIOS
  4. BIOS keeps the specimens ready for pickup
  5. Specimens are packed and shipped to researchers
  6. Specimens are distributed using the distribution protocol within OpenSpecimen

Rapid data entry (RDE) Plugin

OpenSpecimen’s RDE plugin is designed for high throughput biobanks to collect data for one or more participants in one go. UMM also uses a box-scanner to scan a box of specimens with pre-barcoded tubes in one-go and register them in OpenSpecimen. These features help UMM reduce a lot of time doing data entry, thereby improving productivity and saving cost.


“OpenSpecimen allows us to have a detailed biospecimen inventory tracking and reporting system,” said Coleen Damcott, Director, UMM Biorepository.

“One of the nice features of OpenSpecimen is that it helps us to do bulk uploads. We don’t have to do data entry for every single participant. We will be retrospectively managing inventory by CSV imports.” said Coleen Damcott.

As seen in the article, OpenSpecimen being highly configurable allows you to track any type of collections and workflows. We hope you found this article useful. Let us know your feedback at [email protected].