Many scientific researchers prefer to outsource their next generation sequencing projects to commercial service providers to get access to the latest instruments and scientific expertise.
However, there are some countries in the world that do not allow the export of biological samples (tissue samples, DNA, RNA etc.) or require several formal agreements and multi-level clearance.
In this post, we’ll highlight some general information about shipping samples out of several major countries, primarily to the US. Some of this is based on our experience working with many international researchers who use Genohub to outsource their sequencing.
China, for example, does not allow the import or export of biological samples, as confirmed by multiple courier service agents1. Major Chinese service providers require biological samples to be shipped to their Hong Kong address to avoid delay or loss of samples2,3.
In a rare situation, a Chinese group of researchers was able to ship DNA samples to the US using FedEx. They have also detailed their experience and have some advice regarding sample shipment that can be potentially useful to other groups willing to do the same4.
To export biological material from Brazil, several documents such as Material Transfer Agreement and Institutional invoice of specimen exported, are required for customs clearance. A detailed cover letter in both Portuguese and English that can help Customs officials in Brazil (IBAMA) and the USA (USFWS) properly assess the authorization to export and import specimens is also required5. It could take several weeks to obtain these documents so researchers need to plan their work in advance.
Until 2016, The Indian Council of Medical Research made decisions on shipment of biological samples on a case-by-case basis6. However, these regulations have since been lifted since August 2016 and researchers have to follow several guidelines for biological materials to qualify for transport to foreign countries for research purposes7.
According to a FedEx India employee, a non-infectious certificate from an authentic laboratory and a detailed description of the included biological samples is sufficient for customs clearance from India. Any pathogenic material is not allowed to be shipped internationally.
We haven’t come across any issues shipping samples from European countries and generally, a properly declared biological shipment can be exported without any hassles.
The current Universal Postal Union regulations for shipping biological material have been comprehensively summarized in an official document. This document also lists the countries that allow or ban the import/export of biological substances8.
Please consult our shipping guide for more details on how to prepare your shipment to ship samples to USA – https://genohub.com/dna-rna-shipping-for-ngs/#USA.
If you know of any countries that require a lot of formal paperwork for export of biological substances for research or sequencing purposes, feel free to comment below. I’ll update the blog with this information.
(1) China Country Snapshot https://smallbusiness.fedex.com/international/country-snapshots/china.html.
(2) Sample Preparation; Shipping – Novogene https://en.novogene.com/support/sample-preparation/.
(3) Sample submission guidelines – BGI http://www.bgisample.com/yangbenjianyi/BGI-TS-03-12-01-001 Suggestions for Sample Delivery(NGS) B0.pdf.
(4) Community/ZJU-China Letter about Shipping DNA – 2015.igem.org http://2015.igem.org/Community/ZJU-China_Letter_about_Shipping_DNA.
(5) Shipping and Customs http://symbiont.ansp.org/ixingu/shipping/index.html.
(6) Centre removes ICMR approval for import/export of human biological samples http://www.dnaindia.com/india/report-centre-removes-icmr-approval-for-importexport-of-human-biological-samples-2245910.
(7) Indian Council of Medical Research http://icmr.nic.in/ihd/ihd.htm.
(8) WFCC Regulations http://www.wfcc.info/pdf/wfcc_regulations.pdf