How to Set Up a New Cell Culture Lab from Scratch | Corning

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Restarting operations after a pandemic-induced hiatus is one thing. Starting a new lab from scratch because you need a new space to conduct core cell culture research? That's another thing entirely.

Cellular research has always needed a space dedicated to keeping cultures alive and experiments on track. But many new considerations have entered the fray in the wake of COVID-19, such as social distancing, increased hygiene measures, and contamination control.

If all this sounds intimidating, don't sweat it. These quick tips can show you how to set up a new lab safely, quickly, and effectively.

Find the Right Space

Your lab space options will vary depending on your available capital. You could share or borrow a starter spaceScience says, or you could sign a long-term lease in a commercial building. An incubator could be an option, if you can find one near you. Local institutions and organizations will have more information; the California Life Sciences Association, for example, lists incubators and lab space by region, size, and available equipment.

When you find a space, assess the utility inputs — electric plugs, gas lines, sinks, and such — to make sure their placement works for your needs. Consider how your workflow would play out in the new space. Will there be enough counter space for your equipment? Do the traffic patterns make for a good flow, or will scientists bump into each other? Are desk spaces set far enough away from the principal work areas to not interrupt bench work? These questions — and others — will matter as you weigh your options.

Carefully Plan Modifications

If you're able to make changes to the space, great — just plan them carefully. Treat a lab renovation like you would a home renovation: Work with experienced professionals who can help you account for wet lab considerations (such as water or gas lines), pick out optimal countertop surfaces that can withstand spills, and select sturdy flooring material for minimal slip-and-fall risk. Your modifications will affect lab safety, so take extra caution during the planning process.

Lab Manager gives a peek into what renovations look like — but you can always start with modest upgrades, such as replacing the cabinetry, if your budget is lean.

Create Adaptable Protocols

Standardize and codify your care and maintenance protocols manuals and checklists, but leave room to amend them so you can adapt to the unexpected, as you did during the COVID-19 pandemic. For example, you might need to conduct your cleaning regimen more often than you did before the pandemic to account for increased containment risk. And now that social distancing merits staggered schedules and staffing changes, team-based experiment protocols might need to shift to account for evolving factors.

Stock Up With the Right Supplies

Start with the essentials to get your cell cultures going: cell culture flasks, filtration systems, well plates, media, and surfaces. This new lab start-up shopping list can help you get the tools you need to succeed.

Just remember that it can take weeks or months to fully stock your inventory to suit your workflows. You might not even realize that you need a piece of technology and or some supplies until you're midway through an experiment.

You've Got This!

Learning how to set up a new lab can be challenging, but it can also be incredibly rewarding. Start small, plan more than you think you need to, and take time to get everything done safely and correctly so that you don't have to fix mistakes or oversights down the line.

Ready to get started? Get 25 percent off on lab supplies when you stock your new lab through Corning Life Sciences.