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Core biochemical assay laboratory

Specialist assay support for his research interests, specifically the aetiology of non-insulin-dependent diabetes.

Sample analysis service

CBAL offers a complete sample analysis solution. Our experienced staff can advise on the selection of appropriate tests, the correct sample type and collection conditions, appropriate analytical methods and interpretation of the analytical results. Quality Control reports are always available if required.


CBAL operates a 3-tier pricing structure. Researchers affiliated to the NIHR Cambridge BRC will be offered the lowest rates, other academic researchers will be charged a slightly higher rate and commercial organisations will be charged more. In return for favourable sample analysis rates we ask that CBAL is acknowledged in every publication using our assay data. This is essential to ensure future funding for the laboratory.

Assays currently available

The demand for assays in CBAL has always been ‘user-driven’. If reagents are commercially available we are willing to try to set up most assays. As the laboratory continues to evolve it is likely we will develop more diverse assays providing the expertise and technology is available. We intend to introduce accurate mass Mass Spectrometry in the coming year. We would be very interested in working with partners who are looking to use technology such as this.

The commercially available immunoassays we use range from CE-marked Diagnostic kits from vendors such as Siemens, Diasorin and Perkin Elmer to high quality ‘research use only’ kits from Bio-Techne (R&D Systems), MesoScale Discovery and Millipore.

We also have a large number of assays that have been developed in-house. We consider these assays to be at least the same quality as the ‘research’ kits.

The number of assays currently available from CBAL is now over 200. A list can be accessed below.

Turnaround times

Turnaround times for sample analysis will depend on the size and complexity of the project as well as the current workload in CBAL. If work from a large number of studies is received simultaneously the workload will be prioritised after consultation with the CBAL Scientific and Management boards.

A realistic time-frame will be given for each study. Occasionally, delays may occur due to staff shortages or non-arrival of reagents. If this is the case the Investigator will be informed as soon as possible. In general, we are able to process most small projects within two weeks of sample receipt.

Standardisation and quality control

Wherever possible, assays will be standardised against an approved reference preparation (IFCC calibration). There will be some assays where this is not possible. In these cases we will supply details of the calibration material used.

Quality control (QC) samples will be analysed in each batch. We will ensure that the concentrations of the QC samples span the working range of the assay and are appropriate for the samples under test.

Results from QC samples will be within acceptable limits before results from test samples are reported.

Sample collection

We always strive to produce high quality analytical results. However, we have occasionally had problems with the quality of samples sent for analysis – this may lower the value of the analytical results we produce. We will add appropriate comments to poor quality samples (haemolysed etc). Results from these samples should be treated with caution.

Please discuss sample volume requirements and sample type before sending samples to the laboratory. We will be able to offer advice on any special storage conditions or sample preservatives which may be required for the assay.

If possible, plasma/serum/urine samples should be stored frozen in clearly labelled 1.8ml screw-capped Sarstedt Tubes. This tube type is suitable for all of our Autoanalysers. We can analyse samples stored in other tubes but this may incur an additional cost.

Samples should be sent to the laboratory on dry ice, ideally stored in a clearly labelled 9 x 9 or 10 x 10 cardboard or plastic box. Samples requiring significant re-sorting may incur an additional charge.

An Excel spreadsheet with sample IDs should be sent via e-mail. Patient identifiable data must be avoided if possible.

The samples IDs on the spreadsheet should be in the same order as the samples in the boxes. Please contact us for advice on spreadsheet format if required. Results will be returned via these Excel spreadsheets.

Whilst in the laboratory samples will be stored in a -80 Deg C freezer which is monitored by an alarm system. Written procedures are in place to move samples in the event of a freezer malfunction. 

We have very limited freezer space. Once analysis is complete we would be grateful if samples are collected from us. Alternatively, if samples are no longer required, we require written permission for us to discard them. Samples can be returned to off-site investigators. It is the investigator’s responsibility to arrange for sample packing and pay for the courier. Companies such as Biocair offer a comprehensive service.

Contact details

Core Biochemical Assay Laboratory
Level 4, Laboratory Block
Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust
Hills Road
CB2 0QQ.

General enquiries

Mr Keith Burling
Director of CBAL
Box 232
Phone: 01223 216 728

Mr Peter Barker
Senior Biomedical Scientist & Project Co-ordinator
Box 232
Phone: 01223 216 728

Opening times

The laboratory opening hours are Monday to Friday 08:00 - 16:00

If sample deliveries are likely to be outside these hours it is essential to contact CBAL staff immediately so that contingency plans can be made.

CBAL is closed on weekends and Bank Holidays.