Biotech Lab on the Cheap

A few weeks ago, the Globe ran a story on High Tech’s Hand Me Downs. At Ginkgo, we’ve been pretty creative about putting together our lab. Ebay, labs closing up, labs moving, companies shutting down, Dovebid … we’ve tried it all for lab equipment & supplies. So here’s a few tips for those who might come after us.

Tip #1: The best deals are direct. When a company shuts down, it may elect to sell all its equipment to a lab equipment reseller but some choose to auction the equipment off themselves. Most biotech companies aren’t that old and they bought their equipment new, so most of the equipment works and is in good shape. These purchases tend to be a win-win. The company can often sell to you for more than they could a reseller, and you can often get the equipment for less than you would at a reseller.

Tip #2: BE NICE. Companies usually keep one or two employees on to handle the equipment sales after the company has gone under. This person, and all their colleagues, just lost their jobs and now he/she has to work long hours to sell off the lab in an orderly fashion. Being obnoxious just makes their lives harder and isn’t going to make them any more willing to give you a great deal.

Tip #3: You win some, you lose some. Be prepared to buy a few duds. Buying used equipment is always a bit of a gamble. That robot may not work perfectly right. Or something might break in the move. But overall you’ll generally come out ahead: buying three PCR machines for $800 each when only one of them works is still better than buying one new.

Tip #4: Some stuff you just can’t get used. Some equipment has really high resale value or has only been on the market for a short time, so used ones are scarce. The Nanodrop is an great example. It can be pretty hard to find a Nanodrop used, and if you do … it will usually go for a pretty high price. In these cases, it is often worth pricing out a new one. Some manufacturers offer startup/academic discounts which can make new equipment competitive with hard-to-find used items.

Tip #5: Always get the software and dongle! Many pieces of lab equipment require proprietary software or a dongle for operation. If the equipment doesn’t come with the software or dongle, think twice before buying. Oftentimes manufacturers don’t even sell software for older models anymore, and if they do, it can easily run you $2-5k. So that great deal stops looking so great when you factor in these added costs.

That’s it for now. Happy hunting!

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