What does a central lab do? 4 core services to know

24 April 2023

Every clinical trial relies on data from its study participants to inform decisions regarding the safety and efficacy of a potential new treatment. Clinical trial sponsors rely on the data from laboratory tests to bring clear insights that advance studies.

Labcorp Central Laboratory Services generates more clinical trial data than all other central labs combined. Our five globally integrated central labs, located strategically around the world, provide clinical trial lab testing for trials of all sizes. Our comprehensive capabilities in both safety and specialty testing, kit production, pre-analytical services and specimen management help provide quality data by driving consistency at scale.

What does a central lab do, exactly?

Simply put, a central lab supports the work of clinical trials by processing the laboratory samples drawn from study participants. The resulting data provides valuable insights about whether the new therapeutic works, what side effects it might cause and whether some patients might benefit more than others. Acting as a centralized repository for study information, a central lab helps aid data consistency by reducing variability—often associated with questionable data—in results. To that end, we use the same specimen collection supplies, instruments, reagents, procedures and processes to test specimens worldwide and gather data that informs.

At Labcorp Central Labs, we leverage our global network and 35 years of experience in clinical trial lab testing to drive results for drug development. Core services of our central labs include specialty and safety testing, kit production, pre-analytical services and specimen management. Read on to learn more about our capabilities for each of these offerings.

What is the difference between a local lab and a central lab?

Drug developers may use either a central laboratory or a local laboratory for their clinical trial lab testing; however, there are a couple of key differences to note.

As its name suggests, a central laboratory is a centralized location where all the samples obtained from a trial’s investigator sites are processed using standardized procedures and equipment for specialty and high-volume safety testing. By contrast, a local laboratory is a lab located near the clinical trial site. While local labs may have quicker turnaround times due to the shorter distance needed to transport samples, they typically do not offer the deep range of specialty testing services (e.g., flow cytometry, genomics, etc.) and high-quality combinable data that a central lab can provide.

We conduct necessary safety and specialty testing

Safety testing is a crucial component of clinical trials, conducted several times for each study participant. These tests include hematology, which measures components and features of blood; urinalysis, which examines the appearance, content and concentration of urine; and clinical chemistry, which covers a wide range of specimen testing. Thanks to our streamlined and automated processes, we can aid in consistent sample turnaround times, generating results of the highest quality.

As clinical studies have grown in complexity, we have expanded the role of a central lab to include key disciplines of specialty laboratory testing. These include:

Due to the increased demand and highly specific needs within specialty testing, a majority of the testing services we provide fall under this latter category.

We build kits to enable specimen collection

Before a clinical study participant’s sample can be collected, a specimen collection kit must be assembled. To accomplish this, our kit production facilities create more than 5 million kits per year. Each kit is specially designed to meet the unique requirements of the clinical trial. Once completed, these kits are shipped globally to nearly 100 countries, enabling standardized data-driven results from trial sites all over the world.

Go behind the scenes: Join us on a virtual tour of the kit production facility at our Indianapolis central lab.

We support clinical trials with pre-analytical services

A central lab’s pre-analytical services encompass all necessary preparations ahead of clinical trial lab testing. These include registering receipt at the central lab and completing initial processing before sample testing begins.

Curious to know what happens to a sample once it reaches our central lab for processing? Follow along in the journey of a sample.

We preserve study samples through careful specimen management

Preserving the integrity of a sample is crucial for obtaining optimal results in lab testing. That’s why Labcorp Central Labs offers short- and long-term storage options for samples ranging from room temperature—or ambient—to -150° Celsius (often abbreviated LN-2). This allows our clients to leverage greater flexibility for research and testing purposes.

Our specimen management team is also responsible for processing, storing and, when needed, shipping irreplaceable samples to referral labs for testing that isn’t performed at the central lab. In many cases, these tests are performed at a Labcorp specialty laboratory where testing for patients undergoing medical diagnosis, treatment and monitoring is performed. Currently, our specimen management stores over 11 million samples and ships more than 4.5 million samples each year.

Go behind the scenes: See how we support specimen management and safety testing.

A central lab is an essential partner in the success of clinical trials. From building the initial specimen collection kits all the way through safety and specialty testing of study participant samples, central labs enable new investigational products to be evaluated for safety and efficacy.

As our global footprint continues to grow, we remain committed to supporting you as you pursue scientific breakthroughs to transform healthcare for all. Whether you’re looking to us for answers in a large-scale Phase III study, a highly specialized Phase I study or anything in between, you can count on us to deliver.

Ready to start the conversation? Contact our team today.