From June 2016 to October 2017 CU Green Labs and Theresa Nahreini of the Biochemistry Cell Culture Facility have collaborated to write an in-depth case study about this shared facility, the cost avoidance it brings to science and CU Boulder, and the many qualitative benefits of the facility itself. It is our hope that more scientists and campuses will adopt this model of equipment and space sharing in the future to improve science while minimizing the costs and the environmental footprint of research.
A case study of the Biochemistry Cell Culture Facility at the University of Colorado Boulder:
avoided costs and other benefits resulting from shared equipment in collaborative research space
Christina Greever, CU Green Labs Program Assistant
Theresa Nahreini, Cell Culture Facility Manager
Kathryn Ramirez-Aguilar, PhD, CU Green Labs Program Manager
With scientists experiencing intense competition for federal biomedical research funding, efficiency and cost-saving measures are powerful tools to maximize the impact of those research dollars (1, 2). The large environmental footprint of laboratory research facilities and equipment (3, 4, 5, 6), coupled with growing awareness of climate change, also points to laboratory resource efficiency as a contributing critical goal for the future of our planet. This case study examines a progressive approach to cell culture research that is highly efficient, resulting in substantial cost avoidance and a smaller environmental footprint. The Biochemistry Cell Culture Facility (BCCF) at the University of Colorado Boulder (CU Boulder) is a shared scientific resource utilized by 16 labs from three departments. Studying the comparative costs to build and operate the BCCF shared-space versus a hypothetical scenario where 16 labs are built to conduct cell culture in individualized spaces allows us to understand the avoided costs for campus scientists and CU Boulder made possible through streamlining in this shared facility. The BCCF is providing a cost avoidance of $265,883 per year to CU Boulder with $194,777 per year of those avoided costs realized directly by scientists and the Biochemistry Division, and the remaining $71,106 per year realized by Facilities Management and building management. Through a projected cost analysis, we estimate that new construction of the BCCF would cost $804,195 less than the hypothetical scenario mentioned above; renovation of existing laboratory space to create the BCCF would cost $274,285 less than the hypothetical scenario. Furthermore, a cost avoidance of $288,344 is realized for the purchase of new, shared equipment for the BCCF since it requires less equipment than the hypothetical scenario. Based on square footage of the BCCF as compared to the hypothetical scenario, the shared facility provides a space savings of 30 percent. Additional components of this case study include a brief history of the BCCF, a phone survey of biosafety officers at peer institutions, a BCCF end-user survey, and a cost analysis of the number of labs required for effective implementation of a shared facility. This case study demonstrates that a shared cell culture facility can provide qualitative benefits and significant avoided costs to scientists and their academic institutions. Moreover, integrating shared research assets into grant proposals as a best practice would demonstrate prudent use of grant funding, thus strengthening proposals.