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Laboratory services include assistance with shipping of hazardous and any other research materials, parcel delivery, liquid nitrogen storage, DNA extraction service, freezer monitoring, advice regarding emergency back-up freezers, management of sample inventory software and an equipment database.

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Parcel shipment

Shipment of materials by courier can be organised through the Research Operations Laboratory Services team. These materials can be anything from documents, laboratory consumables, reagents to biological materials.

While documents and the majority of laboratory consumables/plastics do not represent a hazard for shipping purposes, shipment of biological material, laboratory reagents and equipment containing lithium batteries are subject to dangerous goods regulations. Dry ice used for refrigeration is also classed as dangerous goods.

Approved training and certification is mandatory for anyone who interacts with the dangerous goods at any point in the transportation process and so anyone wishing to ship this type of material must consult with a member of the Laboratory Service team with appropriate certification


1. Dangerous goods

are articles or substances which are capable of posing a risk to health, safety, property or the environment and which are shown in the list of dangerous goods in these Regulations or which are classified according to these Regulations.

Dangerous goods are divided into 9 separate classes:

  • Class 1—Explosives
  • Class 2—Gases
  • Class 3—Flammable Liquids
  • Class 4—Flammable Solids; Substances Liable to Spontaneous Combustion; Substances which, in Contact with Water, Emit Flammable Gases
  • Class 5—Oxidizing Substances and Organic Peroxides
  • Class 6—Toxic and Infectious Substances
  • Class 7—Radioactive Material
  • Class 8—Corrosives
  • Class 9—Miscellaneous Dangerous Goods

2. Hazardous substances

are classified based only on health effects (whether they are immediate or long term), while dangerous goods are classified according to their immediate physical or chemical effects, such as fire, explosion, corrosion and poisoning, affecting property, the environment or people.

"Hazardous Substances" have the potential to harm human health. Hazardous substances may cause immediate or long-term health effects. Exposure could result in:

  • poisoning;
  • irritation;
  • chemical burns;
  • sensitisation;
  • cancer;
  • birth defects; or
  • diseases of certain organs such as the skin, lungs, liver, kidneys and nervous system.

3. Infectious substances

Substances which are known or are reasonably expected to contain pathogens. Pathogens are defined as micro-organisms (including bacteria, viruses, rickettsiae, parasites, fungi) and other agents such as prions, which can cause disease in humans or animals. Infectious substances are separated into the following categories:

  • Category A - An infectious substance which is transported in a form that, when exposure occurs, is capable of causing permanent disability, life-threatening or fatal disease to humans or animals.
  • Category B - An infectious substance which does not meet the criteria for inclusion in Category A.

When transported, infectious substances (both Category A & B) are classified as dangerous goods and must be shipped in accordance with international (IATA) regulations.

4. Biological materials

are classified as infectious substances (including “biological substances, category B” and “patient specimens”), biological products, genetically modified organisms, or medical/clinical waste for the purposes of shipping. The shipment of certain genetically modified organisms is also regulated.

5. Dry Ice

In addition to the classifications and rules for potentially infectious materials, shipment of solid carbon dioxide, or dry ice, is regulated as a dangerous good regardless of the hazard classification of any other materials in the package. Dry ice may cause burns, and if packaged improperly, can result in dangerously high pressure build-up inside of a sealed contained. For these reasons, there are specific training, labelling, and packaging requirements for shipments containing dry ice. 

Hidden dangerous goods

Some shipments may contain hazardous materials that are not immediately apparent.

Examples include:

  • Battery powered devices/equipment such as computers which may contain lithium or wet batteries
  • Reagent kits which may contain hazardous chemicals
  • Diagnostic specimens/samples for testing which may contain infectious substances

Care should be taken when preparing for a shipment to declare all such contents as undeclared dangerous goods can cause a shipment to be turned back or rejected or in the worst case, can cause a catastrophic accident.

Packing requirements

All shipments of dangerous goods, hazardous or infectious substances, and biological materials are subject to strict packing requirements. Failure to adhere to these requirements will result in a shipment being rejected – it may be returned to the shipper or destroyed.

Biological materials comprise the significant majority of material shipped by courier from St. George’s University of London. These materials must be packed in a primary vessel (e.g. Eppendorf tube), then a secondary container (a box or bio-bag, containing sufficient material to absorb a spill of all or any of the contents) and then into a tertiary container (usually a polystyrene container inside a cardboard box). It should be noted that the external packaging should be of good quality and without significant damage. Suitable thermal boxes can be provided via Laboratory Services and will be recharged to a shipper’s cost code.

Information regarding packing requirements of other shipments will be discussed with individual shippers when booking.

How to arrange a courier shipment

To arrange a shipment, shippers should complete the parcel information form (Word) in as much detail as possible and forward to Head of Laboratory Services. Shippers should include in their email the date that they wish to send their package.   

The shipper will then be contacted by a member of the team to confirm details and arrange for the parcel to be shipped.

See the Transport of Biological Materials Policy (PDF)

Liquid nitrogen storage facility

Liquid nitrogen is used for the long-term cryogenic storage of samples and for snap freezing of biological material.

The facility comprises six self-filling liquid nitrogen storage vessels which are maintained centrally by Research Operations staff. There are also a number of smaller tanks which are manually filled by members of the Laboratory Services Team.  All self-filling tanks are equipped with temperature probes to ensure consistency of storage.

How to obtain liquid nitrogen for snap freezing

The Laboratory Services Team will also provide small amounts of liquid nitrogen for snap freezing purposes. Any researcher requiring small quantities of liquid nitrogen for snap freezing of samples should contact a member of the Laboratory Services Team Gavin Linkson or Michael O’Reilly.

Access to the facility

Staff requiring access to storage space within a self-filling tank should contact the Head of Laboratory Services.

Any staff member requiring access to the facility must first undergo an induction to the facility, including face to face training within the facility. For information contact the Head of Laboratory Services.

Cold storage and monitoring service

The Laboratory Services Team manage a cold storage monitoring system which enables researchers to monitor the temperature of fridges, -20⁰C, -40⁰C and -80⁰C freezers and any self-filling liquid nitrogen storage vessels.

How to obtain a temperature monitoring probe

Researchers wishing to obtain a temperature monitoring probe for their cold storage facility should contact Laboratory Manager (HTA and equipment) indicating their requirement. The Laboratory Services Team will contact the researcher for further information if necessary, provide a quote for the requested probe and if agreed, arrange for its installation.

All researchers requesting a temperature probe will be required to provide a contact list in the event of cold storage failure. It is the researcher’s responsibility to notify the Laboratory Services Team if their contact number changes or if they need to be temporarily or permanently removed from the contact list e.g. when taking annual leave or when leaving St George’s.

Training and access of temperature logs will be provided by either Laboratory Manager (HTA and equipment) or another member of the Laboratory Services Team to ensure that researchers are aware how to access temperature logs for their own freezers, to acknowledge an alarm call and if necessary to disable the alarm in the event of a cold storage failure or during defrosting.

DNA extraction service

This service is supported by a member of Research Operations technical staff. 

DNA extraction is performed using the Chemagic Magnetic Separation Module I. This automated system is advantageous as it prevents cross-contamination and minimises DNA shearing, resulting in elutes of purified nucleic acids. Following extraction, DNA will undergo quality checks based on absorbance ratios and quantified via Nanodrop. These results are held using our sample management and tracking software (ItemTracker™). Users who are not already registered to use ItemTracker should contact either Ashraf Sameja or Penny Lympany

Additional Services

We also offer additional services, including qubit quantification, amplification and DNA preparation for downstream applications. Please contact the Head of Laboratory Services,  to secure the required technician time.

Service Request

To request a service, please complete the sample submission form (Excel) and forward to the Senior Technician responsible for the service. The arrival date and delivery method will also be agreed in advance to ensure there is availability to track and store your samples on arrival.

Sample requirements

Submissions should meet the sample requirements; DNA output is dependent on the sample provided – old or poorly stored samples may provide a lower yield of poorer quality DNA. 

Your request will be accepted into a work queue on arrival if the following requirements have been met:

  • All arrivals must be de-identified.
  • Accompanied with the sample submission form.
  • Fresh EDTA blood (≥ 3 mL) 
  • Fresh/frozen spleen tissue (size approx. 0.5 cm x 0.5 cm x 0.5 cm) preserved in RNAlater (internal drop off only to the DNA Extraction Freezer);
  • Other frozen specimens or DNA samples if agreed in advance with the Senior Technician or the Head of Laboratory Services.
  • Multiple freeze-thaw cycles should be avoided.
Turnaround times and cost

Turnaround times may be discussed prior submission and will be dependent on the service request, sample type, sample size and position in the work queue. Typically, we can complete extractions for 24 blood or 12 tissue samples within 2 days.

The cost for DNA extraction is £9.00 per sample. Additional services will incur an agreed extra charge. 

For the cost quote please contact the Senior Technician or the Head of Laboratory Services.

If you are a new user who requires assistance or further information please do not hesitate to contact the Senior Technician or the Head of Laboratory Services.


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