What is it? Why is it important?

Sample transport is the sample-workflow step where collected Biological Material (BM) is taken from its place of collection to the:

  • Sample processing site (e.g. BM handling prior to long or short-term storage), or
  • Sample storage site, where BM is kept until analysis (e.g. freezer storage at -80°C)


The aim is to preserve the integrity of BM during transport.

Considerations include:

  • Rapid delivery: once collected BM becomes negatively impacted if exposed to sub-optimal conditions and temperatures (e.g. RNA/DNA/protein degradation or alteration, decrease in cell viability)
  • Transport conditions: Temperature fluctuations, vibrations, and accelerations (in hospital transport system: pneumatic systems), threaten optimal BM properties (e.g. degradation of cells or molecules of interest)
  • Documentation: For subsequent down-stream analysis, traceability of BM handling during transport provide important BM quality information


IATA certificate: dry ice used during sample transport is considered a dangerous substance. Consequently, staff responsible for sample transport require the acquisition of an IATA certificate.

What do I need to do?

Define sample transport processes. Aspects to consider include:

  • The trajectory, which reflects the expected time-laps between BM collection and processing or storage site
  • Required transport temperature (TT)
  • Required packaging material and safety requirements:
    • Ensure optimal TT (e.g. secondary container, dry ice, ice pack)
    • Prevent unwanted damage to BM (e.g. shake and/or light proof container)
    • Protect staff from unwanted BM contamination. Define an emergency process for unwanted BM spillage
  • Required documentation:
    • Person(s) responsible for BM transport (e.g. study staff, logistics, couriers, pneumatic system), including an IATA certificate
    • Transport date, reception time, and temperature
    • Unexpected events impacting sample quality (e.g. non-conformities such as, transport delays, sub-optimal handling or shaking of BM)


Write a SOP and/or WI that explains the BM transport process


In addition to an SOP/WI:

  • Create applicable forms to be filled-in by staff responsible for BM transport (e.g. date & time of BM transport, transport conditions, unexpected events)
  • Ensure staff is properly trained and adhere to required transport conditions (e.g. IATA, safety measures, unexpected events with potential impact on BM characteristics and quality)


In the event BM transport is outsourced to an external partner ensure:

  • Transport processes are comply with internal standards
  • Set-up a service level agreement (e.g. contract) that defines expected services and responsibilities

Where can I get help?

Your local CTU can support you with experienced staff regarding this topic

The Swiss Biobanking Platform (SBP) can provide you with support on this topic.

SBP Documents

SOPs, Forms and Templates – see in particular

  • Biological Material SOP


ISO 20387:2018 Biotechnology - Biobanking (access liable to cost)- General Requirements for Biobanking – see in particular section

  • 7.4 Transport of biological material and associated data

Publications PubMed

PMID: 28242283

  • Giavarina, et al. “Blood venous sample collection: Recommendations overview and a checklist to improve quality”

PMID: 23072858

  • Lippi et al. "Preanalytical quality improvement: in quality we trust"

PMID: 25979952

  • Ellervik et al. “Preanalytical variables affecting the integrity of human biospecimens in biobanking”

PMID: 29377712

  • Betsou et al. “Standard PREanalytical Code Version 3.0
  • BM – Biological Material
  • CTU – Clinical Trials Unit
  • DNA – Deoxyribonucleic acid
  • IATA – International Air Transport Association
  • RNA – Ribonucleic Acid
  • PMID – PubMed ID
  • SBP – Swiss Biobanking Platform
  • SOPs: Standard Operating Procedures
  • TT – Transport Temperature
  • WI – Working Instruction
Development ↦ Biobanking ↦ Handling of Biological Material ↦ Sample Transport

Provides some background knowledge and basic definitions

Basic Monitoring
Basic Drug or Device

Starts with a study idea

Ends after having assessed and evaluated study feasibility

Concept Drug or Device

Starts with confidence that the study is feasible

Ends after having received ethics and regulatory approval

Development Drug or Device

Starts with ethics and regulatory approval

Ends after successful study initiation

Set-Up Ethics and Laws
Set-Up Quality and Risk
Set-Up Drug or Device

Starts with participant recruitment

Ends after the last participant has completed the last study visit

Conduct Drug or Device

Starts with last study visit completed

Ends after study publication and archiving

Completion Statistics
Completion Drug or Device
Current Path (click to copy): Development ↦ Biobanking ↦ Handling of Biological Material ↦ Sample Transport

Please note: the Easy-GCS tool is currently under construction.