CRU Laboratory: Behind the Scenes

This month we welcome our guest blogger Colin Hale. Colin is the Laboratory Manager within the CRU and is about to take us behind the scenes…

The CRU laboratory is a bespoke, purpose-built lab specialising in the sample processing and storage for a range of clinical trials. Working in the CRU laboratory provides staff with a challenging and dynamic environment to complete their work.

I find working within the lab to be a rewarding experience, as I am often involved with a study from the initial set up phase through to its completion. There is a real sense of accomplishment knowing that patient samples that have been processed and analysed provide essential complex data that could one day contribute to life-changing treatments.

The lab acts as a sample reception area for a large number of trials. The variation in sample numbers, sample types and subject data is huge and the lab team endeavour to ensure each individual sample is treated with high importance and always to GCP standards.

The CRU Laboratory

Samples that we process in the lab vary from study to study. As many of the samples are collected through invasive procedures (for example CSF), it essential that they are handled with the utmost care as we will only have once chance to use the sample. The projects that we work on also vary from healthy volunteer studies through to highly complex oncology trials.

The lab is equipped with and array of equipment, some of which is highly specialised for specific trials. We have centrifuges (for sera and plasma separation), a Class-2 Safety Cabinet (for sample processing), Radiation Monitor (detection of radiation levels for our oncology studies) among others. It’s essential that not only myself and lab staff are fully trained with these, but also all other clinical staff have the ability to use such equipment to assist with the smooth running of their trials.

Blood sampling is a major part of working in the lab. As many of our trials specialise in the phase-1 stage, we aim to look at the pharmacokinetics of experimental treatments. Essentially with many of our blood samples we are looking for the concentrations of a drug within plasma over a period of time. This provides an excellent data source for the progression of the trial and goes a long way to determining just what the drug is doing in the body. This forms the ‘day to day’ of the lab: sample receipt, processing, storage and dispatch to the various analysis labs. This doesn’t just involve lab staff. Dedicated research nurses and research assistants also have a pivotal role in the CRU labs ensuring our exceptionally tight deadlines are for sampling are met.

The CRU lab also works and liaises directly with sponsors and researchers across Europe and the US. We currently ship to laboratories in France, Germany, Belgium, Switzerland, Netherlands and Italy as well as multiple sites in the US, so there is a huge amount of logistics to keep on top of for myself and the lab team.

Overall, the CRU is a busy and dynamic area and working directly on a clinical ward puts you at the heart of what happens during our trials.