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Cryogatt Releases Cryogenics Solution

The system combines the company's readers and software with HID Global's tags to enable the tracking of frozen specimens inside freezer containers as cold as -321 degrees Fahrenheit.
By Claire Swedberg
Jul 24, 2015

Cryogatt Systems Ltd. is marketing a solution for the RFID-tracking of cryopreservation specimens that combines HID Global's Piccolino passive 13.56 MHz high-frequency (HF) RFID tags, made using HID's Vigo direct-bonding technology to attach each tag's antenna and its chip, and Cryogatt's reader and software platform. Both the readers and the tags are designed to operate at temperatures down to -321 degrees Fahrenheit (-196 degrees Celsius). The technology is now in use by several cryopreservation laboratories that store human pathology samples, as well as blood and tissues, for genetic reference purposes.

For two years prior to the solution's commercial release this year, the companies conducted testing with the National Institute of Biological Standards and Controls (NIBSC), an England-based organization that focuses on biological medicines, develops related standards and reference materials, provides product control testing and carries out applied research.

Cryogatt's RFID reader, shown here in a freezer, can be exposed to temperatures down to -321 degrees Fahrenheit and still capture the IDs of HID Global's Vigo Piccolino tags attached to vials and storage trays.
"The cryogenic storage industry faces many challenging hurdles while maintaining the correct freezer temperatures for stem cell vials," says Philippa Kennedy, Cryogatt's director. Such freezers operate at -80 degrees to -196 degree Celsius (-112 degrees to -321 degrees Fahrenheit), and live research material and fertility specimens are stored at similarly low temperatures. Organizations that manage the specimens must comply with government mandates and handling procedures.

Historically, cryogenic samples are typically stored in glass or plastic vials and thin tubular containers known as straws. At most institutions, they have been identified by means of handwritten or printed labels—and, more recently, by bar-coded labels—attached to those straws and vials. When material samples are stored at extremely low temperatures, vials are subject to intense frosting, making printed or bar-coded labels difficult and time-consuming to read. The labels are also prone to falling off. "It is vitally important to protect each sample from being damaged by a rise in temperature during the inventory process," Kennedy explains. Additionally, labels can become dislodged or illegible with the collection of frost on the container's surface. Workers must often locate and identify a particular vial or straw quickly, and it is during this process that mistakes can occur.

To prevent errors and meet mandates, laboratories conduct regular audits. However, auditing each sample is time-consuming and typically requires two staff members working under strict health and safety timelines. Sample racks hold approximately 100 vials or straws, with each freezer containing many hundreds of such racks. Employees must manually identify every single straw or vial by reading each individual label, Kennedy says—a process that averages a 9 percent error rate. "These errors can result in legal damages," she states, "and are frequently quoted in the press."

RFID offers a better alternative, Kennedy says, assuming the hardware can survive low temperatures. Until now, she adds, RFID solutions did not address these types of harsh environments, as such low temperatures are typically outside the specification of tags and readers.

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