Improving access to human biospecimens for all
During his service at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, Dr. Christopher Ianelli noticed a software solution that orchestrated the distribution of leftover specimens to researchers developed within the clinical laboratory of the hospital. Acknowledging that these “clinical remnant” specimens held tremendous value for medical research, he quickly realized the power of this solution to reduce waste and accelerate research by connecting bench researchers to a steady supply of remnant clinical samples. This outstanding discovery made Dr. Ianelli shift his career to technology-based solutions, from the clinical side of medicine, and launch iSepcimen—a human biospecimen marketplace technology company.
Procuring high-quality and richly annotated human biospecimens that represent an exact specimen match has always been a massive challenge for scientists who manage pressing timelines for R&D plans as well as regulatory and ethical constraints. “The time-consuming and complex process can be wrought with searches from one specimen supplier to another, resulting in cobbled-together specimen orders across numerous sources. This means multiple transactions and vendor contracts, disparate compliance management, numerous orders and shipments to track, and the delivery of specimen data sets from various contributors,” says Dr. Ianelli. Alleviating the pain of this process is the iSpecimen Marketplace—an innovative technology-driven platform that efficiently finds and obtains annotated human biospecimens required for diagnostic and therapeutic discovery research. “We connect healthcare organizations that have access to patients and specimens with researchers and scientists who desperately need them.”
The Marketplace platform allows researchers to search a truly federated network of healthcare providers and biobanks to find the specific specimens and data sets required for their research. At the same time, it also provides a tremendous service to healthcare provider organizations—such as hospital systems, commercial laboratories, biobanks, and private practice groups—that desire to contribute more broadly to biomedical research and generate incremental revenue to help offset biospecimen-related expenses. The key products of the platform are human tissue, biofluids and viable cells; it also delivers services like sourcing of banked samples as well asprospective and custom collections.
At the heart of the platform is technology that securely and compliantly receives de-identified data from electronic medical records, laboratory information systems, and other data sources about available specimens and patients and harmonizes the data across all participating organizations for one standardized view into the federated specimen pool. This data is then easily searchable by researchers. Additionally, the iSpecimen Marketplace simplifies administrative tasks associated with specimen procurement and handles all compliance management and financial transactions on behalf of both specimen provider partners and researchers. As a B2B marketplace, “we aim to bring B2C features and functionality into our B2B platform to recreate for researchers and healthcare providers the ease of use that they have come to enjoy as consumers, like natural language generation to facilitate order expression and image coupling for picking tissue samples based on specific morphology,” notes Dr. Ianelli.
Today, the quest and fulfillment of biospecimens is becoming more layered and complex. What started as a request for human tissue just a short time ago, later became modified by cancer stage and the presence of certain cancer biomarkers. Now, there are more layers of specificity in requests and these requests demand increased responsiveness, on both the front- and back-ends of procurement. Coincidentally, iSpecimen offers expansive, increasingly dynamic access to precise biospecimen matches, made possible by an integrated supplier network with distributed inventories, versus the amassing of banked inventories that dominate much of the market today. “Our success is thus linked to an ever-growing, diverse, global, and highly engaged supplier network.”
Going forward, “we want to use B2C models to directionally frame ongoing enhancements for our customers’ experiences within the marketplace platform, as a part of increased functionality on the front-end. Alongside, on the back-end, we will focus on making specimen supplier integration as easy, efficient, and speedy as possible,” concludes Dr. Ianelli.