Receiving plasmids from the USA is becoming more and more costly, environmentally unfriendly, and complicated in terms of import permits.
Here are some stories from colleagues in Europe:
"We recently ordered plasmids from [the USA], as we have done before. For the first time, however, FedEx told me that processing of our shipment
by the customs officials in Cologne requires proof that the stated commercial value of our shipment was correct. According to Fedex, an invoice
did not constitute such proof, only a credit card statement or some other proof that I already paid for the shipment would do.
I explained that I can’t provide such proof of payment because the university administration, as a matter of principle, only pays bills at the
final due date. This would have been some time in January, at which point the bacteria carrying the plasmids would have been dead." Scientist from Heidelberg, Germany
"We are actually going through problems with customs when ordering from [the USA]." Scientist from Madrid, Spain
"An american company depends on US laws. In particular some plasmids cannot be distributed outside from the USA because the insert is considered as 'bio-terrorism'.
This is the case for our plasmids expressing VSVG. It is non toxic but can be used to pseudo-type viruses. Non-american citizens thus write to us to get the plasmids.
Ironically I cannot receive some of my own plasmids from [the USA] !!" Scientist from Paris, France
Q: Are the plasmids being provided at production cost?
YES. This price is just barely enough to cover the costs. As an example, it costs circa 5 euros to miniprep a plasmid at deposition, if you include reagents and employee time (but not overheads, equipment depreciation, lab infrastructure, etc.)
And if you assume that roughly 1 in 10 deposited plasmids gets requested, this is a cost of 50 euros per requested plasmid. And that’s just the miniprep cost.... As another example, once finances permit, our top priority is to NGS-resequence all deposited plasmids, which costs 40 euros per plasmid.
Q: Does the European Plasmid Repository become owner of deposited plasmids?
NO. You, the depositing scientist, remain owner of the plasmids. The European Plasmid Repository only
gets permission to distribute the plasmid for you. In fact, it’s not even an
exclusive right, meaning you can of course still distribute the plasmid yourself as well
as deposit it with any other repository in addition. In other words,
there is no down-side to depositing your plasmids at the European Plasmid Repository.
All of this is contractually settled in the Framework Agreement that the depositing institution
signs with the European Plasmid Repository. This agreement needs to be signed between your institution
and the European Plasmid Repository only once - for the very first plasmid that gets deposited by anyone from your institution.
Q: Will the European Plasmid Repository sell my plasmids to industry?
NO. The European Plasmid Repository will only distribute your plasmids to universities, academic research organizations, and non-profit research institutes. This is contractually
settled in the Framework Agreement that the depositing institution signs with the European Plasmid Repository.
Q: How does it work with citations? Does it make sense to deposit only published plasmids?
Likewise, if you associate the plasmid to a preprint, the website will indicate which preprint should be cited.
The advantage of depositing plasmids together with the bioRxiv preprint is that you can already indicate in the
Materials & Methods where the plasmid can be obtained (e.g. European Plasmid Repository Plasmid #24).
This way you won’t get any plasmid requests at all, because people know where to look.
Later on, when the paper is accepted, you can add the publication to your profile, and then shift
the plasmid from the preprint to the paper. This way, from then on, people will cite your paper.
Finally, if there are some plasmids you want to share that aren’t published at all, you can
create an ‘unpublished project’ by just giving it a name and an author list, and you can associate
the plasmid with the project. Here too, whenever you want, you can “shift” the plasmid to associate
it with either a bioRxiv preprint or a published paper.
So all 3 options make sense depending on the situation.
Q: Will our Technology Transfer Office be OK with me depositing plasmids?
YES. We will automatically involve the Technology Transfer Office of your institution in the deposition process.
As soon as someone from your instituion submits the very first plasmid to the European Plasmid Repository, we will send
the Technology Transfer Office of your institution an automated email requesting:
to set up a ‘Deposition Framework Agreement’ which gives the European Plasmid Repository the right to distribute plasmids for your institution,
to tell us exactly which MTA they want us to use for distributing your plasmids.
From experience, this usually takes 1-2 weeks. This only needs to be done once for your institution, when the very first plasmid is deposited.
Q: What information do I need to deposit a plasmid?
Depositing plasmids is quite fast. After logging in, there’s an online form where only 3 pieces of information are required:
a plasmid name
the plasmid sequence
what antibiotic resistance is on the plasmid (Ampicillin, Kanamycin, etc.)
(There are also additional optional fields where you can enter additional information if you
wish, for instance a brief description of what the plasmid is for.)