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December 14, 2023jessica-sacher
Lab Equipment Budget Startup Seeking advice

Ann Gregory, PhD via Twitter: Does anyone have any advice for where to purchase start-up equipment with a tight budget? (1) Class II Biosafety Cabinet, (2) Benchtop Microcentrifuge, (3) Anaerobic Chamber, (4) Autoclavable Micropipettes sets, (5) -80C Freezer.

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daniel-nelson ∙ December 15, 2023
Hi Ann, I do not know if you are in the United States, but if so, you should be aware of the Stevenson-Wydler Technology Innovation Act of 1980. This law requires the US Federal government to give for free all surplused Federal equipment to non-Federal entities such as universities and nonprofits for research and development purposes. As an example, the NIH surpluses millions of dollars of scientific equipment every year. Federal laboratories, such as NIH, have yearly budgets, and they get into situations where they must completely spend their entire budget by the end of the fiscal year, or they will have their budget reduced by the amount they did not spend for the following year. As a result, these labs will often surplus used scientific equipment (even though it is in perfectly good working condition!) simply to buy new equipment to spend out their budget. All of this surplused equipment goes to warehouses where it can then be given to research labs at universities in keeping with the Stevenson-Wydler Act. I am at the University of Maryland, so my laboratory happens to be within a few miles of the NIH surplus warehouse in Rockville, MD. Over the years, I have obtained (for free) bacterial incubators, tissue culture incubators, shakers, thermocyclers, plate reading spectrophotometers and fluorometers, AKTA fplc chromatography systems, benchtop centrifuges, microfuges, power packs for electrophoresis, stir plates, vortexers, and computers, to name a few items. Most of these items are in perfectly good working condition or only need minor repairs. I think I had to purchase a $50 temperature sensor for one of the Eppendorf benchtop centrifuges and I always buy new Hepa filters for incubators. Otherwise, my expenses are zero. While I have the advantage of close proximity, I have seen new assistant professors pull up to NIH surplus in U-Hauls from as far away as NYC and Atlanta. Although NIH probably has the largest surplus inventory for scientific equipment, I am sure there are other warehouses that have scientific equipment from USDA, DOE, FDA, VA medical centers, and other agencies spread all over the country. Here is the link for the NIH program: I have also had much success at local auctions. Biotech startup companies go out of business all the time and their equipment is then auctioned off for pennies on the dollar. I've used these auctions to obtain unused biosafety cabinets, vacuum pumps, and thermocycles. Good luck! Daniel Nelson