Who We Are

The Ottawa Hospital Research Institute has grown rapidly to become one of the largest and most important hospital-based research institutions in Canada and with this growth comes the development of the Biorepository.

The Biorepository is located in the Loeb building at the Civic Campus, of the Ottawa Hospital, and officially opened in January 2012 with the transfer of 86,000 samples from the pilot phase of the Ontario Health Study.

The goal of the Biorepository is to make the state-of-the-art facility available to researchers and to help promote the safe handling, receipt, storage, inventory control, packaging and distribution for all sample types. With the capability to track and store hundreds of thousands of biological samples in vapour-phase liquid nitrogen, the Biorepository is an extremely valuable resource to all researchers.

Facility and Equipment

The Biorepository is a large-scale operation with a 1,200 ft2 facility, currently outfitted with:

  • Seven top-of-the-line, vapour-phase cryogenic freezers, each with a 90,000-sample capacity.
  • Triple monitoring system to ensure temperature and liquid nitrogen level are maintained within specified parameters.
  • Laboratory Information Management System (LIMS), BioBank, which enables staff to archive, trace and manage sample and laboratory information and it ensures complete traceability of samples and associated information.
  • Cryo Carts – portable work benches that maintain temperature at -190°C for up to eight hours, allowing for the reception of large quantities of samples. The carts have been specifically designed to allow for the manipulation of samples in a liquid nitrogen environment without exposure to high temperatures. In addition to being a high efficiency work bench, the cryo cart has also been designed to allow for the safe transportation of large quantities of samples from one freezer to another within the Biorepository.
  • Vapour Shippers – specially designed transport containers that maintain a temperature of -150°C for up to 10 days and can be made available to researchers for transport of cryopreserved samples to and from the Biorepository. The liquid nitrogen is fully absorbed in a hydrophobic compound; therefore, shipment using vapour shippers does not fall under Transportation of Dangerous Goods Guidelines for liquid nitrogen regulations and gives the shipment a “non-hazardous” classification.


The Biorepository is committed to protecting all information and biological materials stored in the facility and, as such, the facility is key-card accessible to only Biorepository personnel and is equipped with two security cameras. For sample security, all equipment is equipped with redundancy power including battery backup as well as being connected to the Ottawa Hospital’s emergency power. This allows for the continuous dual-alarm monitoring system that tracks temperature and liquid nitrogen levels.

For personnel safety, the Biorepository is outfitted with state-of-the-art oxygen monitoring system, where the probes are connected to a monitoring and alarm system which notifies personnel, day or night, should the temperature of any of the freezers deviate from its acceptable range. To ensure sample security, Biorepository personnel is on call 24/7 and can respond to activated freezer alarm within 1 hour. Due to these precautions, the Biorepository is not a self-serve facility and all services will be completed solely by trained Biorepository staff.