Journal:Selecting a laboratory information management system for biorepositories in low- and middle-income countries: The H3Africa experience and lessons learned

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Full article title Selecting a laboratory information management system for biorepositories in low- and middle-income countries: The H3Africa experience and lessons learned
Journal Biopreservation and Biobanking
Author affiliation(s) Makerere University College of Health Sciences, Tygerberg Hospital, Stellenbosch University, University of Maryland - College Park, Institute of Human Virology - Nigeria, South African National Bioinformatics Institute, University of the Western Cape, Clinical Laboratory Services - Wits Health Consortium
Primary contact Email: samkyobe at chs dot mak dot ac dot ug
Year published 2017
Volume and issue 15 (2)
Page(s) 111-115
DOI 10.1089/bio.2017.0006
ISSN 1947-5543
Distribution license Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International
Download (PDF)


Biorepositories in Africa need significant infrastructural support to meet International Society for Biological and Environmental Repositories (ISBER) Best Practices to support population-based genomics research. ISBER recommends a biorepository information management system which can manage workflows from biospecimen receipt to distribution. The H3Africa Initiative set out to develop regional African biorepositories where Uganda, Nigeria, and South Africa were successfully awarded grants to develop the state-of-the-art biorepositories. The biorepositories carried out an elaborate process to evaluate and choose a laboratory information management system (LIMS) with the aim of integrating the three geographically distinct sites. In this article, we review the processes, African experience, and lessons learned, and we make recommendations for choosing a biorepository LIMS in the African context.


A biorepository requires the linkage of high-quality material to data housed in a laboratory information management system (LIMS), which tracks each sample. A founding principle of H3Africa is to make sure that DNA (and possibly other biological material) would be properly stored in biorepositories for future research purposes.[1][2] The value of this material is partly determined by the associated phenotypic data. Management of this data and sample tracking in compliance with national and international best practices and ethical guidelines requires a refined data management system.[3][4] According to the International Society for Biological and Environmental Repositories (ISBER) Best Practices, a computer-based inventory system is necessary to track the location and annotation of every specimen in the biorepository.[3] The system should also track significant events during a sample's existence from collection to destruction, including sample thaws, receipt and/or processing delays, processing, transfer of the sample within the repository, specimen distribution and return, and destruction.[3][4][5] These ISBER Best Practices, as well as others from around the world, are under consideration to codify International Organization for Standardization norms as the basis for a new international accreditation program for biorepositories.[6] There are several factors that hinder successful implementation of a biorepository LIMS in Africa. This article discusses the H3Africa Biorepositories experiences and provides recommendations for the process of evaluating, choosing, and deployment of a sustainable biorepository LIMS in low- and middle-income countries (LMIC).


  1. H3Africa Consortium; Rotimi, C.; Abayomi, A. et al. (2014). "Enabling the genomic revolution in Africa". Science 344 (6190): 1346–8. doi:10.1126/science.1251546. PMC PMC4138491. PMID 24948725. 
  2. Human Heredity and Health in Africa (January 2011). "Harnessing Genomic Technologies Toward Improving Health in Africa: Opportunities and Challenges" (PDF). H3Africa Consortium. 
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 Campbell, L.D.; Betsou, F.; Garcia, D.L. et al. (2012). "Development of the ISBER Best Practices for Repositories: Collection, Storage, Retrieval and Distribution of Biological Materials for Research". Biopreservation and Biobanking 10 (2): 232-233. doi:10.1089/bio.2012.1025. 
  4. 4.0 4.1 Vaught, J.; Campbell, L.D.; Betsou, F. et al. (2012). "The ISBER Best Practices: Insight from the editors of the third edition". Biopreservation and Biobanking 10 (2): 76-78. doi:10.1089/bio.2012.1024. PMID 24844903. 
  5. Pitt, K.; Betsou, F. (2012). "The ISBER Best Practices Self Assessment Tool (SAT): Lessons learned after three years of collecting responses". Biopreservation and Biobanking 10 (6): 548-9. doi:10.1089/bio.2012.1064. PMC PMC4046752. PMID 24845142. 
  6. Betsou, F.; Luzergues, A.; Carter, A. et al. (2007). "Towards norms for accreditation of biobanks for human health and medical research: Compilation of existing guidelines into an ISO certification/accreditation norm-compatible format". Quality Assurance Journal 11 (3–4): 221-294. doi:10.1002/qaj.425. 


This presentation is faithful to the original, with only a few minor changes to presentation. In some cases important information was missing from the references, and that information was added.