The background

As a master student of biotechnology here in Slovenia, at the University of Ljubljana, I was always thinking how nice it would be to work in one of the big pharma companies here. But if you know the country and its industry, it is not hard to find out that we only have several players in the field. So after a few application letters, I ended up in the bioprocessing lab. I must admit, the work was not at the level that a master student would expect and it was something in between being a biologist and working in the car repair shop. As any good bioprocessing lab should, we also had a small biobank where we stored different samples in plastic cryogenic vials. These are stored in plastic boxes, each containing 81 vials (rows of 9 x 9 vials) and those boxes are then into the cryogenic tank, where they are stored at -196 °C. And as a student, I had the privilege of doing a revision of all the vials inside the tank. All 13.500 of them.

Frozen vials stored in a box min

Frozen cryogenic vials stored in a box

The main idea

When faced with the challenge of doing the revision of all the vials in the biobank I had only a few choices on how to proceed. The process of moving had to be done extremely fast so that biological material inside of the vial did not thaw - that would mean that the material was compromised. Since the vial was also frozen to such a low temperature, it could easily break if it fell down.

So my supervisor narrowed the process down to two options:

  1. Either I would wear thick gloves that would keep me safe from getting frostbites and pick each vial with my hand, check the number on it and transfer it to the new box.
  2. Or I would use tweezers or forceps to pull the vial out of the box and proceed as mentioned before.

Those aforementioned solutions have some flaws:

  • If you are using thick gloves, you can barely grab the vial caps and thus it takes you a lot of time to transfer all the vials. Not exactly a good thing if you are working with temperature-sensitive material.
  • If you are using thin gloves, you can easily get frostbites.
  • If you are using tweezers or forceps, the vial - which is frozen - could easily slip off the tool, fall on the ground and get broken (or just damage the biological material inside).

So during all this time (which turned out to be many days) when I was working on transferring all the 13.500 frozen vials, I devised the solution, presented now as Pharsol’s first own developed product.

Transfering frozen vials with tweezers
Example of transferring frozen vials with tweezers

The development process

Soon after figuring out what I would like to pursue in life, I ended up founding a startup - Pharsol. I started off solo and was then joined by a friend, Tom, and we started the development of a tool which would enable safe, 100 % efficient and faster transfer of each frozen or unfrozen vial.

The idea behind it is pretty simple. If you have a vial that has a blind hole in the lid, you could put a tool in the lid, that would grab the vial and pull it out of the box. And this is the way the Cryoholder essentially works. Since the housing of the Cryoholder fits really tightly with the wall inside of the hole on the cap of the vial, it enables a safe and efficient transfer of the vial. And the vial can be then easily released from the tool by simply pressing the plug on top of the tool. If you compare the Cryoholder to a pen, you will be able to draw some parallels. And so in a couple of months the tool was born. It’s name comes from it’s function - Cryo- stands for cryovials and -holder for a tool that is able to hold it.

- Miha Rajh, CEO of Pharsol

 Example of transferring the vial with the Cryoholder
Example of transferring the vial with the Cryoholder

More about the development of the CryoHolder will follow in our next blog, but if you can't wait and want to find out why the CryoHolder is the best tool for your lab now, do not miss our previous blog post.

You can also buy the CryoHolder directly on the official CryoHolder website:

To the CryoHolder website

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