Frequently Asked Questions

FAQ – Shipping

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General FAQs

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Shipping FAQs

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If you are local to our facility, you may hand deliver your samples during normal business hours (Monday through Friday 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. US Eastern Time).

Unfortunately, SeqCenter does not handle shipping arrangements for submissions. We do not have a preferred courier, so you are welcome to use the service of your choice.

DNA is normally quite stable at room temperature. For Illumina WGS samples, ambient overnight shipping is adequate. Cool packs provide protection against degradation during warmer months of the year. Please be mindful that SeqCenter and US customs holding locations are in the northern hemisphere. For long read DNA samples, samples low in concentration, or samples with heterogeneous composition, we recommend shipping with dry ice for uniform preservation.

For RNA samples and cell pellets, dry ice is required. (DNases are released during cell lysis, which can degrade DNA in whole cell pellet submissions.)

Please refer to each individual service page for requirements and recommendations.

For all shipments, please ensure your samples are protected during transit. If using a box, ensure padding is included to protect your samples from jostling. If using an envelope, please place samples in a secondary rigid container to prevent the tubes from being crushed. For dry ice shipments, be mindful that dry ice will sublimate leaving more empty space, so protect your samples appropriately. More specific submission and shipping information is included at the end of the checkout / order process.

SeqCenter is not responsible for samples lost or delayed in shipping and will not monitor shipment tracking. We ask our customers to check their shipment’s tracking. We recommend that sensitive samples be shipped Monday-Wednesday for overnight delivery, thereby preventing any possible shipping delays due to inconsistent deliveries on weekends.

When using dry ice, most couriers recommend adding ~5-10 lbs of dry ice per expected day of transit, being mindful of potential shipping delays particularly on/near U.S. holidays. Domestic dry ice shipments should only be sent early in the week in case of any delays, as we are unable to receive shipments on weekends.

Dry ice is required for submission of RNA samples and non-viable whole samples. Dry ice is optional for Illumina DNA samples but is encouraged for low concentration or long read sequencing samples and/or during warmer months of the year.

Generally, international shipments will need 2 categories of paperwork to enter the US: (1) import taxation documents and (2) safety declaration and permits.

For the import taxation documents, customers must declare the commercial value of the goods being sent to be assessed for tax. This document can be called a commercial invoice or pro forma invoice. When shipping, this is the valuation of the raw materials themselves, not the cost of the services we will perform. Since you are not selling us the materials, this value should be less than US$10, and the document should mention that the contents are samples for testing and analysis only. Listing values above US$10 may cause delays due to paperwork issues and for the shipment to incur import taxes.

For the safety declarations and permits, customers must list full scientific names for all materials, including chemical names and genus and species of the originating organism when applicable. Paperwork must address Centers for Disease Control (CDC, human-related) and United States Department of Agriculture (USDA, livestock- and crop- related) safety concerns. We strongly recommend consulting your institution’s biosafety advisor or shipping expert for additional guidance. Below are general guidelines separated by whether or not import permits are required.

  • International shipments of whole samples for extraction of human, livestock, or plant pathogens and whole soil samples require safety permits to be successfully received. Additionally, the USDA states that importation of nucleic acids for any microorganism on this list also requires an import permit. Some highly pathogenic organisms cannot be imported at all.
  • Non-infectious samples that do not require permits must be labeled as such, including “unregulated biological material” by CDC guidelines and the specific USDA guideline that allows the sample be unregulated by the USDA.

Shipping is very rough, and samples can be exposed to extreme temperatures and pressures. For all shipments, please ensure your samples are well protected during transit by placing them in a secondary rigid container to protect from crushing, if you are not using a box. If submitting agar plates, please provide adequate cushion as the rough shipping process can cause cracking.

All packages should follow CDC and USDA guidelines for shipping biological material, including use of sealed primary and secondary containers, as well as absorbent material in case of leaks. Please make sure to include any necessary safety declarations with the shipping documents on the outside of the package and any required safety signage/stickers.

Additionally, please include the “Shipping Information” page at the end of the order process in your shipment to help our team identify your samples. More specific submission and shipping information is included at the end of the checkout / order process.

We are able to receive packages Monday through Friday 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. US Eastern Time. Please do not choose delivery times outside of our operating hours, which can cause additional delays in delivery.

Shipments should be planned keeping potential delays in mind, as packages are held in shipping warehouses which typically have highly variable and extreme temperature and pressure conditions regardless of the season. We typically see shipping delays in the few days prior and following US federal holidays. Please see our “How will SeqCenter’s holiday closures affect my order?” FAQ for a list of our holiday closures for the current calendar year.

For domestic shipments, we recommend shipping samples priority overnight Sunday through Thursday morning to avoid samples from sitting in a shipping warehouse through the weekend.

We would love to see you in person! You can drop off samples at our front desk during our business hours, Monday through Friday 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. US Eastern Time. We are located on the 2nd floor of RIDC’s Chocolate Factory in Pittsburgh’s Lawrenceville neighborhood, up the stairs and to the right.

Our facilities will be closed for specific holidays, and we will be unable to accept packages during those days. Additionally, the closures will offset the two-week deadline for orders for which the turnaround window includes the dates listed below. (Please see our policies page for more information on our two-week turnaround window.)

2023 Closures

  • Thursday, November 23, 2023 through Sunday, November 26, 2023 (Thanksgiving)
  • Saturday, December 23, 2023 through Sunday, December 31, 2023 (Winter Break)