Who's in charge of your cryogenic storage facility?

Cryogenic storage has to be viewed holistically as a system. Every system will have to address all the basic elements of a bio-repository: facility, emergency plans, equipment, inventory management, safety, monitoring, transportation, and potentially even shipping. Each of these subsystems are critical to address, but I wouldn't do you any favors, if I simply gave you specific technical guidance on these key elements of best practices. I will cover them over time, but first, I want to make a critical point.

In this "thought teaser", I want to focus on emphasizing the critical role that people, the management and staff, of your organization play in this, no matter what size your organization is. Making sure that all of your efforts in selecting the best equipment, the best monitoring, and all other processes in place are not for naught is very important, so you have to start with a key question, like my old boss and mentor would ask: Who's in charge? This is critically important, when your bio-repository is an outgrowth of your main activities, such as an IVF clinic.

Where do you fit in the organization? Do you have management responsibilities regarding the bio-repository? Is it clear in your organization who ultimately is responsible for the bio-repository? Is this reflected in your policies and procedures? Does the Board of Directors in your organization get periodic reports on the performance of the bio-repository? Does your staff know what the chain of command is? Do you have a documented process for assessing performing employees' competency?

It is natural, and perfectly defensible, that your organization doesn't have dedicated cryogenics staff. At some point, when you scale up, it will make sense, given the potential liabilities and reputational issues, but ultimately, it is not about how much money you put in to your bio-repository. It is about how much thought you put into it, and how you execute. You rarely loose specimens because your tank failed. You loose them because you didn't think ahead about what do to when your tank fails.


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