The Living BioBank Q&A

Trevor Faith, MS
May 12, 2021
The Living BioBank has various touchpoints with the existing informatics infrastructure, including SPARCRequest, i2b2, the Research Data Warehouse, Short Term Storage Solution in the HCC Biorepository, and consultation with Honest Brokers.

The Living BioBank integrates MUSC’s existing informatics infrastructure for blood and microbiome sample procurement. Review the following Q&A to learn more about how this new research resource can assist you as a translational researcher.


Q: What can the Living BioBank provide?

Whole blood samples are made available directly to researchers while resulting assay data from microbiome samples (perianal swabs, nasal swabs, stool, and COVID test swabs) are provided to researchers. Associated data requests with your sample request can provide available clinical data from the health record.

Q: How do I receive my samples?

If you are requesting blood, samples are made available directly to you as they are procured. You will receive an email notifying you a sample has been procured for your request and will have 24-hours to pick it up from the Hollings Cancer Center Biorepository, located in the Basic Science Building, BS739, which is open between the hours of 9:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. You will need to bring a lidded container and gloves for pickup. Microbiome samples are not made available directly to requesters, they are analyzed in bulk once all samples for a request have been collected. The resulting assay dataset is provided to the requester.

Q: Do I need IRB approval to obtain samples?

If you are not requesting PHI along with your samples, IRB approval is not necessary as the process is not human subjects research (no PHI collected and no interaction with subjects). If you intend to request PHI, IRB approval will be necessary.

Q: Does the Living BioBank store samples for research use?

No, the Living BioBank functions as a just-in-time capture system. This means that we do not prospectively store samples in bulk. Blood samples are made available to researchers as they are procured, so storage is the responsibility of the research team. Microbiome samples for a given request are kept with the SCTR Research Nexus lab until all samples are procured for batch analysis.

Q: How long will it take to get all of my samples?

Sample procurement varies based on the number of samples requested and the specificity of the patient population. We plan to develop a feature to estimate accrual rates based on the number of samples meeting your criteria available in the last 3-months.

Q: How do I specify my patient population?

i2b2 is used to build an electronic patient phenotype. Faculty have access to the platform and staff can gain sponsored access on request to the research data request team. i2b2 queries associated with the NetIDs of the personnel on the associated SPARC protocol will be available for selection when creating a Living BioBank request. Before finalizing your request, we will schedule a consultation to ensure your query accurately identifies the patient population of interest.

Q: How many requests can I create?

We limit each SPARC protocol to one active request at a time, however, if you are a part of multiple protocols you may have a request for each. If you need to update or add to an existing in-progress request you will need to contact to schedule a consultation and make the appropriate updates.

Q: How do I get started with a new request?

At a minimum, you will need to create a research master ID to begin your request. If you already have an RMID and SPARC protocol, information will be populated into the Living BioBank from those systems. If you will be requesting PHI, you will first need to obtain IRB approval. You will also need to create an i2b2 query to identify your population of interest. A user guide is also available from the Login and Help pages of the Living Biobank.

Q: What does it cost?

Blood samples are currently available at no direct cost to the requester. Charges are applied for microbiome sample processing. A base fee of $1500 per request and $109.97 per sample is expected but these are estimates and may vary based on the project, batch size, and urgency. Please contact or Bashir Hamidi at with questions regarding microbiome samples.

Q: Will other members of my research team be able to access the request?

Requests made in the Living BioBank are available to all study team members listed on the SPARC protocol.

Q: Who can make a request?

Any study team member listed on the SPARC protocol can make a request – however, if the user submitting the request is someone other than the principal investigator (PI), a notification will be sent to the PI upon submission. At this time only MUSC affiliates (i.e., faculty, staff, students) can submit a request, however, we are developing a mechanism for users from other institutions to request microbiome data.

Q: Is there a way that my team could provide samples as well as request them?

Currently, our process identifies samples flowing through MUSC’s clinical laboratories. However, if you are interested in working with us, we are happy to discuss opportunities for collaboration. Contact the team at

Related Links

Biomedical Informatics Center

Living BioBank