Pitt Biospecimen Core

Frequently Asked Questions

At what UPMC Hospitals is the Pitt Biospecimen Core operational?

There is a full service tissue bank at UPMC Shadyside, UPMC Presbyterian and Magee-Womens Hospital of UPMC.  We also have a collection site at UPMC Passavant. 


What are the hours of service at the Pitt Biospecimen Core?

Hours are 7:30 am to 5:00 pm, all sites.


Does the Pitt Biospecimen Core provide services on the weekends or after hours?

No, we do not provide service on weekends, evenings, holidays or during University recess.


How do I know if I need a pathologist for my project?

If you are studying paraffin blocks from the clinical archive at UPMC, the IRB requires a pathologist to be named on your project.  The pathologist named is responsible for reviewing the project and approving the allocation of tissue.

A pathologist may also be needed in order to assess the quality of the tissue and confirm diagnosis before disbursement for your project.  This Quality Control is done by embedding each sample in OCT, cutting a frozen section, and staining the slide with hematoxylin and eosin (H&E).  Ultimately, a pathologist will review the material to determine quality and diagnosis.  The PBC will continue to pull and analyze samples until your project requirements are fulfilled. 

If you require a pathologist and are not currently collaborating with one, please contact the PBC to discuss options.


How do I know if I need an IRB?

The Pitt Biospecimen Core has an IRB-approved expedited protocol for the collection, banking, and disbursement of human tissue and other biological materials.  This includes, but is not limited to, normal, inflamed, malignant, and metastatic tissue from patients with a variety of diseases as well as blood, urine, and other bodily fluids.  The resource resulting from the collection of these specimens is intended to provide research resources for investigators in order to pursue individual research initiatives.  You may use the PBC’s IRB to acquire specimens from the PBC under certain circumstances.  In order to use this IRB, your request must be for de-identified frozen specimens that are already in the bank at the time of your request.  This IRB does not cover any other type of material including fresh samples or formalin-fixed paraffin embedded (FFPE) samples.

The following scenarios would require additional IRB approval:

  1. Specific prospective focused (non-random) excess tissue collections.  The PBC’s IRB does not cover researcher driven collections for a specific research purpose.  This type of project would require separate IRB approval.
  2. Collection of specimens only for research, without clinical evaluation.  This type of project requires prospective informed consent from the participant and would need further evaluation by the IRB.
  3. Identifiers or linkage codes are needed by the researchers.  Identifiers and linkage codes can be provided to a researcher but only when the study has received full board IRB approval, a signed written consent was obtained, and all of the investigators requesting the samples and/or data are named investigators on the IRB-approved submission permitting the receipt of patient identifiable data.  Unless there is a full board IRB approval status addressing the stipulations listed above, all specimens are disbursed in a de-identified fashion.

Please contact Nicole Pistorius, the Project Manager at the PBC, to discuss the details of your study to determine if an IRB is needed.


I already paid for my collection.  Why do I have to pay to get my samples out of the bank?

  • Short answer: it requires additional effort and material, which has an associated cost.
  • Longer answer: most projects involve collection of more samples than are eventually disbursed.  The rate of sample disbursement is extremely variable (1 - 100%).  The charge structure is arranged "à la carte," so that you only pay for what you receive.  You pay only for collection when you collect samples; you pay for disbursement when you receive them back.