Wednesday, August 17, 2016

The engineering behind repositories

Fig.1. Specimens in a freezer. (Credit: Sarah Pack)

“Those (refrigerators) heat up, (samples) die. You can lose your sample if things don’t work properly,” said Phil Baird, former vice president of operations at the American Type Culture Collection (ATCC).

At Harvard’s McLean Hospital in 2012, that’s exactly what happened. When freezers shut down at the hospital without triggering alarms, 150 brain samples, banked to study autism, decayed.

“... Up in Boston a few years ago, they had thousands of autism brain samples, and they weren’t properly set up and monitored. And the power went out and they lost them,” Baird said. “Having a repositories isn’t just plugging in a bunch of freezers.”

With a background in mechanical engineering and metallurgy and material science, Baird never imagined he would land a job at ATCC. But when he was looking for a job in Washington, D.C., years ago, he came across a job ad for ATCC looking for a candidate with no biology background.

That’s how Baird became program director, reporting to ATCC’s chief executive officer, eventually working his way up to VP of operations.

“I was (at ATCC) for four years. I spent seven years at Fisher Bioservices (formerly McKesson Bioservices) as VP of the Government Services Division. Here I was responsible for the operation of a number of government funded drug and biological repositories,” Baird said.

The positions allowed him the opportunity to work on the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s Center for Addiction Services and Psychotherapy Interventions Research (CASPIR) as well as run ATCC’s repository, preservation and media labs and other facilities.

“I had never seen an ultra-low or liquid nitrogen freezers before I walked into ATCC,” he said. “What I did understand was how materials flow … and how to move products through a system.”

What Baird’s background in electronics engineering afforded the ATCC was someone who was able focused on infrastructure, design, planning and more. And today, as a consultant, Baird continues to think about these things. Along with Elaine Gunter, owner of Specimen Solutions, LLC, he drafted a two-part publication for Journal of Biopreservation and Biobanking, titled “Repository Planning, Design and Engineering.” Part I looks at infrastructure, while Part II investigates equipment and costing.

“It’s pretty much a constant process,” he said. “Most of your storage is below room temperature, so it’s a matter of getting the facility together and getting it set up to sustain the freezers … The infrastructure is the building, the lighting, the air conditioning, the heating, the power -- all that type of stuff. The equipment depends upon the temperature you need to store (specimens).”

“A repository may be ‘just a warehouse,’ but the necessary support and control systems make it a very upscale and expensive warehouse. Costs will vary widely depending on the location and purpose of the repository,” Baird and Gunter, both founding members of the International Society of Biological and Environmental Repositories (ISBER), write in Part II on equipment and costing.

“The economic viability … is one of the big and constant topics,” Baird said. “How does the organization get a sustainable fund to support their operation?”

Now retired, Baird has taken to consulting. While the collection of specimens for research is important, he said it’s important to think about sustainability of the collection or bank while staying within budget. Baird said one of the biggest challenges in his work is to get scientists to begin thinking about the necessary infrastructure for specimen and sample management. He stresses the importance of repositories not only functioning properly but for data management to be accurate and up to date.

“You’ve got millions of (samples) scattered in freezers, and you say, ‘I want this particular vial.’,” he said. “And it better be the right one.”


  1. actually the Maclean autism bank did have proper redundant, separate temperature monitoring systems. But whatever electrical glitch affected the internal workings of the freezer, also disrupted the redundant temp monitor. Now they have 3 independent monitoring systems.

  2. When I was assigned an essay on military proceedings, I found some information about these repositories. But I couldn’t get along with that because later on, I have to opt for the best UK essay online help. As I got sick and was not able to do it on my own. But when I will get free time I would like to read more about nuclear repositories because these were looking amazing and informative.

  3. repositories are very good stuff for engineers and repositories are important in a nuclear research lab. I have also a repository for my university but sometimes I get help from Top Assignment Help Online they are the best writers and they have the academic repository in a large quantity.

  4. There is no doubt that engineering has a big hand behind the evolution of humanity, but does anyone here know when and how engineering began? I have been ask to write on this in detail and I am thinking to try Buy Dissertation Online to write on this.

  5. I have a friend who is a repository maintenance engineer. And now I understand exactly what he meant when he told me that his job was tough. Anyway, I still remember the early days of our friendship – we were in the final year of our engineering college, and we would look for professional writers and pay for dissertation ​to get it done on time. And then once we graduated, our paths separated. I hope I can meet him soon.

  6. Hi...
    A good place to share or find engineering data. GitHub. A general repository for data and code (focused more on the CS end of the spectrum).
    You are also read more Business Loan Online Apply

  7. Amazing blog! Nice job guys! Whether it is days or hours before your task is due, we will help you meet the deadline. Experts from gonerdify review are the wizards of speedy and timely writing. We do not re-sell or publish delivered orders. If required, your review can be deleted from our database.

  8. The essays are model essays, designed to look like the way a student would write. Feel free to use expert writers review the material and revise it in a way that is yours. The essays are original and custom-made to fit your topic, specifically.

  9. “Can you help me write my paper for free in psychology?” We have qualified for-pay psychology experts as we do for business, political science, IT, and other studies essay writing help online. When making your order, click on “other” if you do not see your discipline on the list provided.

  10. I remember that when there was lockdown in our country due to Covid, I have nothing to do except providing write my dissertation services. Then one day I start searching engineering and since then my interest in it increases.

  11. I am in Dubai and I enjoyed desert safari Dubai, I will recat leastatleast once.

  12. There are many companies which offer safaris in Dubai, but I will focus on the two most popular ones: the morning desert safari and the Evening Dubai Desert Safari.

  13. This service why not try this out will be useful for those who are looking for reliable and experienced professionals through IT nearshoring. It contains information on how to select and hire a reliable candidate for your business, as well as understand what to consider when choosing him and what skill set he should have.

  14. "The engineering behind repositories" is an intriguing topic, much like the statement made by a "mens yellow blazer ." This blog post likely delves into the technical aspects of repositories, shedding light on their functionality and importance in the digital age. It's a valuable read for those interested in the engineering behind data management.

  15. Clic Glass has set a new standard for excellence in the world of exterior doors with Clic glass on exterior doors
    . They're in a league of their own.