SPREC: a New Barcode to Read Biospecimen Integrity?

Biobanking experts discuss the benefits, limitations and implementation strategies of the Sample PRE-analytical Code (SPREC) in a new publication

Biobanks need to ensure that biospecimens are fit-for-purpose, meaning that they have a high standard of quality for the specific analysis that they are needed for. Depending on the type of downstream analysis (e.g. mutation, viability, protein analysis), different parameters during the collection, processing and storage need to be controlled, since they can have detrimental effects on sample quality. In an effort to harmonise the way these parameters, or pre-analytical variables, are identified and communicated to end-users, the Sample PRE-analytical Code (SPREC) was developed.

SPREC is a 7-element long code, where each element corresponds to a critical pre-analytical variable, thus allowing the tracking of all the variables across the process chain.  It was developed as a collaboration between Dr Fay Betsou, Chief Scientific Officer at IBBL (Integrated BioBank of Luxembourg), and multiple other biorepository professionals within the ISBER (International Society for Biological and Environmental Repositories) Working Group on Biospecimen Science.

A recent publication in the Experts Speak section of the Biopreservation & Biobanking journal discusses the benefits and limitations of the SPREC, as well as the technology required for its implementation and the best ways to apply it in biobanks. The authors, working in biorepositories and research institutes across different sectors, also discuss how SPREC can be implemented in various types on biobanks, including human specimen, stem cells, biodiversity and environmental biorepositories.

Dr Sabine Lehmann, Quality Manager at IBBL and co-author of the publication, comments: “The SPREC, as implemented at IBBL, is an invaluable element of a good quality management system. Especially for biobanks seeking certification or accreditation, sample annotation with SPREC means that you can easily trace and quantify whether quality objectives have been achieved.”