Lab Selection

The following are general issues that a population researcher should consider when determining which laboratory should handle the biomarker assessments and what to expect when dealing with a collaborating laboratory.


One of the best approaches to identifying a lab is to talk to colleagues at CPC or elsewhere about laboratory collaborations. For less frequently used assays that are either exploring a new measure or are using a new collection methodology for the assay (e.g., blood spots), developing relationships with research laboratory scientists may be necessary. For more standard assays, talking with colleagues or consulting journal articles to identify researchers who have done similar work provides guidance in selection of a lab.

 Pros and Cons

There are two categories to choose from when selecting a laboratory collaborator: a commercial lab or a research lab. In some developing country settings, the choices may be few. For research projects requiring specialized assays, it may be necessary to build local laboratory capacity to meet research project needs if those services do not already exist. In the US there are often many alternatives to consider.

Commercial Labs

Advantages Disadvantages
More accustomed to doing clinical diagnostic assessments May not be familiar with issues related to specimens that have been stored for extended periods or that have been through thaw-refreeze cycles
Often have standard quality control procedures in place Less familiar with collection techniques that are used in non-clinical settings (e.g., blood spots).
Usually can manage high volume with rapid results May not be accustomed to working with researchers who want remaining specimens aliquoted or returned for long-term storage after initial assay

Research Labs

Advantages Disadvantages
More likely to be working on new assays that may make use of techniques not commercially available.
  • Reliability of the assay may not be well established.
  • Assay may change during the course of the research project, making it difficult to compare results that span several months or years.
Because research labs generally are not in the business of high-volume processing, there can be delays in getting specimens assayed and results reported.

A research lab's protocols may not be as well documented as those of a commercial lab, making it more difficult to get the description needed for incorporating assay results in data analysis and publication.

The above issues should be discussed with potential lab collaborators during the selection process.

Specimen collection receptacles



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