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Blood Storage Provider Plans RFID Pilot

LifeForce believes RFID can be a more secure and economical technology for tracking small cryogenic vials containing white blood cells.
By Jonathan Collins
Jul 07, 2006U.K. health-care startup LifeForce offers a service that stores frozen human white blood cells at secure locations. Lately, LifeForce has begun examining how RFID can be used in its operations. The company plans to begin utilizing the technology in a pilot within the next six months.

The Immune System Bank stores only the white cells forming the basis of an individual's immune system. A sampling of immune cells is taken from a healthy patient and stored for potential subsequent use in newly developed adoptive immunotherapy or biological therapy. These treatments can be used to boost the client's immune system should he or she become ill with a disease such as HIV/AIDS or cancer.

Del DelaRonde, LifeForce CEO
LifeForce's Immune System Bank stores small cryogenic vials holding 4 milliliters of a client's blood at -194 degrees Celsius. At present, the company attaches a bar-coded label to each vial to identify it, and to link it with the person's details and records. The company, however, is investigating using RFID tags embedded in each vial.

"RFID would add another layer of security [to ensure patients get the correct vial], as well as keep us at the leading edge of technology available," says Del DelaRonde, CEO at LifeForce.

So far, LifeForce has carried out its initial tests to ensure that RFID tags will survive the freezing and unfreezing process required for the planned deployment. Though the tests have been completed, the company has yet to decide which frequency or tag standards might be used. The next step, DelaRonde says, is to establish what data will be stored on each tag, and to determine where and how the tags will be written to and read. The company will also work to ascertain which suppliers' equipment will be used, while taking in consideration any requirements dictated by government regulators in the United Kingdom and the United States.

"We need to ensure that anything we use complies with Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency regulations, as well as anything that the FDA may require in future," say DelaRonde.

Launched 18 months ago, LifeForce currently has 150 Immune System Bank customers. The company predicts that once it begins marketing its service to both patients and blood banks, the number of clients will grow dramatically. Such an increase would help spur the firm to adopt RFID quickly, says DelaRonde, as it wants to have a system in place as soon as possible to prevent having to retrieve many bar-code-only vials and retrofit them with RFID tags.

Despite the early nature of its work with RFID, LifeForce says the technology will reduce administrative costs because it speeds the verification of vials removed from storage. The company is also considering storing not just a unique ID number on each vial's tag, but also such data as the client's name, address and relevant medical history.
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