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iSpecimen Launches Biospecimen Marketplace


By Allison Proffitt

June 13, 2017 | iSpecimen launched its marketplace today, an online shopping platform to connect life science researchers to healthcare organizations with human biospecimens. 

The platform is designed to maximize user experience. Researchers start by requesting tissue, biological fluids, or viable cells. From there, the platform pulls up a results list that is very similar to results in Amazon or Kayak. On the left, a panel of check boxes and sliders help researchers narrow their results by specimen details, molecular characterization, patient demographics, histology, and more.

Results update in real time as different selections are made, and any sample can be added to a shopping cart with a single click. The whole process feels intimately familiar to anyone comfortable with online shopping. 

This is the cool stuff, Christopher Ianelli, founder and CEO at iSpecimen, said of the look and feel of the marketplace. “The harder stuff to do is… getting all these data in, harmonizing it, and presenting it all in this easy-to-navigate user interface.”

Nearly one million biobanked specimens, including biofluids, solid tissue, and cells, are available on the iSpecimen Marketplace today from biorepositories in the company’s partner network. As part of a phased approach, iSpecimen will add millions of clinical remnants to the marketplace in the coming weeks as well as prospectively collected research-use-only samples before the end of the year. All research-use-only samples available through iSpecimen are collected with patient consent as required by federal law, as well as institutional review board (IRB) oversight. The technology manages specimen consent status as part of its capabilities.

Payment isn’t quite as straightforward as adding a credit card. Once a researcher has built a cart of samples that fit her needs, iSpecimen will double check availability and generate a quote that can be shared with the researcher and her procurement department. Once the researcher accepts the quote, a “pick list” is automatically generated for the biobanks and they package and ship the samples. 

Biobank Advantages

The marketplace is not only valuable to researchers, Ianelli said, it also brings a lot of value to biobanks. Not only will it expose a biobank’s inventory to more researchers, it will help them better build their collections.

The marketplace includes automated fulfillment and procurement processes, and offers a partner-facing web interface that directs specimen selection, packing, and shipping. Further, as a benefit of participation, iSpecimen partners can use the technology to gain insight into their own specimen availability as well as access specimens from across the network for their own their internal research needs.

In a preview, Ianelli showed Bio-IT World search results for breast cancer samples. Several of the results did not include sex details, a reflection of the data coming into the iSpecimen system from the biobanks’ databases. That’s the kind of detail that iSpecimen will be able to point out to biobanks. With more careful curation, your samples would be more useful to researchers.

“Providing specimens through the iSpecimen Marketplace generates value for us on multiple levels,” said Amer Abouhamze, MHA, Assistant Director of the CTSI Biorepository at the University of Florida, in a statement. “It allows us to reach thousands of scientists who are in need of high-quality biospecimens, providing us with an excellent method to more easily fulfill our research mission. It allows us to ensure the utilization of biospecimens as quickly as possible after procurement, in order to accelerate translational research. And finally, it gives us insight into our own inventory as well as the whole iSpecimen partner network to bolster internal research programs within the university.”

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