The goal of the laboratory team led by Dr Debora Lucarelli is to provide the resources, infrastructure and expertise required to store, process and measure study human tissue samples samples from existing and new collections. these are primarily blood based, and the scale of the work is significant with in excess of one million samples stored.
The technical strategy behind the establishment of the systems has been to remove as many manual processes by using automated laboratory methods where possible. Generally the science requirements mean that the team is working with thousands of samples at any one time, and some work is carried out using automated robots to ensure that sample integrity is maintained throughout processing. In order to deal efficiently with this type of work we have worked with the Cambridge BioMedical Research Centre (BRC) to establish a joint multi-user short-term storage and re-arraying facility on the Addenbrooke’s campus.
The laboratory work for the Unit is either carried out internally, by collaboration or through third party service providers. Internal activity has been focused on high-throughput sample management, custom genetic assays and supporting the measurements of blood based biomarkers. Many tasks are associated with storing, retrieving and preparing samples that are shipped to collaborators or commercial service providers. The laboratory stores its samples at a commercial facility and in our liquid nitrogen storage facility at the NHS Blood and Transplant Centre on the Cambridge Biomedical Campus. The team has expertise in high-throughput DNA extraction and associated quality control and has put over 90,000 DNA samples through this pipeline. It has additional expertise in assay design for genotyping experiments and interpreting raw genotyping data.
There are strong connections internally within the Research Support teams; the Laboratory team provides technical support to the Study and Field teams for collecting samples and for clinical biochemistry work that goes through the NHS system. The team have also worked closely with the Data Management and IT teams and this has enabled an efficient system for backing up, storing and processing data generated by laboratory based systems.