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Important instructions for Biological samples

The ILL is dedicated to helping its visiting researchers to make the most of its facilities. Neutron beams and instrument access are provided free of charge for proposers of accepted experiments.

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The ILL User Club provides online access to all the information and administrative tools for our scientific visitors, presented in a user friendly environment.

Important instructions for Biological samples

The biological safety of experiments performed on macromolecules at the ILL is initially based on a sample sheet to be filled in and submitted once you receive the safety letter related to your proposal. It is crucial that the scientist fills out the sample sheet correctly. In case of DNA or oligonucleotides, indicate if native, synthetic or from other origin (ie commercial). For biological agents, please make sure that all details are given. A French decree dated 18 July 1994 defines a list of pathogens with their risk classification. The ILL does not accept biological samples belonging to higher than Hazard Group 1. For proteins, full details must be given. Is the protein toxic, oncogenic, biologically active, or presenting any risk to human health or environment? DO NOT use abbreviations, but mention the function of the sample (e.g. kinase, scaffold protein or even if  hypothetical or unknown function, etc.). For highly purified proteins, you should detail the source of origin and the host organism in which the protein is expressed.
According to the Commission de Génie Génétique (the French Genetic Engineering Commission, which has now been replaced by the HCB (Haut Conseil aux Biotechnolgies) by decree 2008-1273 of 5 December 2008) proteins are classified in two classes of risk:

A (no danger to human health and/or environment) or
B (presenting a danger to human health and/or environment). All toxins fall under category B.

The CGG has published a short list of classified proteins. Proteins which come from a class 2 source organism or higher and that have been over-expressed in class 1 organism (e.g. E. Coli BL21 strain, Yeast, Baculovirus in insect cells) will be reviewed case by case.

The French decree of 30 July 2004 details some biological agents and takes into account the notion ‘all or part of’ (tout ou partie) of the agents. With the new regulations (Décret du 30 juin 2010 et Arrêté du 30 avril 2012) the notion of 'all or part of' has been redefined as follows:

  • For toxins and toxin fragments authorization is required when the sequence is more than 167 amino acids.
  • For genetic materials authorization is required when DNA and/or RNA sequences are more than 500 base pairs.

For experiments involving samples of human origin, the scientist should clear the export regulations of his/her own country and should submit an import/export authorisation form and transport label to the French Ministry of Research via the ILL/ESRF Bio Safety Officer. In addition to the form and label users should submit the following:

  • a brief summary of the research project is required;
  • an accompanying letter from the head of your home institute research department, stating the importance of the research project involving human samples;
  • a testimony of the innocuousness of the samples related to HBV, HCV and AIDS Virus;
  • a letter stating that the samples have been collected with prior consent of the patients and no money has been exchanged in whatsoever form to collect the samples.

Without such an authorisation, no human sample can enter the French territory to be analysed on ILL instruments. Please, note that authorisation instruction time takes at least 1 month.

After checking your sample sheet submitted with your proposal, and checking what is stated in the safety letter that you receive from the Biosafety Officer, you will be notified if you have further documents to provide.



Finally, an agreement with airport security at Geneva, Lyon and Grenoble airport customs and police has been set in place; you must carry an accompanying letter provided by the ILL/ESRF joint Biosafety Officer (Véronique Mayeux phone +33 (0)476 88 22 03) only when you are travelling home with your dewars or dry biological samples. No agreement exists for liquid samples. The letter (in French) must be signed by the person transporting the samples and the ILL/ESRF joint Biosafety Officer. You may request an English translation of the letter either for your information or for the airline, depending on which company you are flying with. The joint Biosafety Officer should be contacted well in advance for the provision of this letter, especially when the letter is required for travel at the weekend; details of the person transporting the samples have to be transmitted to the airport authorities in advance of travel.

Users travelling via Lyon or Grenoble airports should ensure that the dewars comply with IATA special provision A152. It is strongly recommended to contact your airline prior to travel to check specific constraints regarding weight and size. Ensure that any old labels are removed prior to travel. 

It is strongly recommended that samples should be shipped by "agreed" carriers such as FEDEX, UPS, DHL, World courier, TNT.


The ILL does not provide any such letter for scientists travelling back to UK on Eurostar with samples and may be subject to a security check by Eurostar authorities. See Eurostar section.

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