International biological material shipment information for various countries

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

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.

Brazil

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.

India

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.

Europe

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.

References:

(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

3 thoughts on “International biological material shipment information for various countries

  1. A freight forwarder needs a great reputation with a wide network of contacts. If one shipping pathway is blocked, a great forwarder will be able to redirect it through another option. The forwarder that a client uses should be enrolled in trade associations to this end, and membership is a great vetting tool that clients can use as well.

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  2. We are confirming that we could ship most biological products from US to China. There are different risk categories of biological products, Class A (highest) products include human based cells, tissue, and virus. The import regulations are different based on the risk categories. We offer dry ice or ice pack biologics shipping service, including all fees with custom clearance and quarantine, international and domestic air cargo, duty and taxes.

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  3. I want to transport some bacterial isolates to UK for my genetic modification research. Is it possible without much paper work? If yes kindly do let me know the process.

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