Pipette Tips Shortage: How is it Hindering Biological Research?

Pipette Tips Shortage: How is it Hindering Biological Research?

Scientists use hundreds of pipette tips on any given day in their labs. In December 2020, the Food and Drug Administration announced that pipette tips are on the ‘Device Shortage List,’ confirming what many scientists already knew: there was a debilitating supply chain problem in the life sciences industry.   By March 2021, nearly half of all laboratories  nationally struggled to get the essential supplies needed for testing due to the global shortage of medical supplies. Continue reading to learn why there is such a shortage of pipette tips in the medical and science industry.

What are Pipette Tips Used For?

Medical professionals use filtered pipette tips for testing and scientists use them in their important research. Using the right pipette tip is essential for gathering the right amount of liquid in the lab.   It’s important to use pipette tips with a filter when there is a higher chance of contamination. These pipette tips have a barrier of sorts to help prevent unecessary liquid from getting into the pipette barrel. Some of the other uses of pipette tips in the life sciences industry include:  
  • Working on the development of clinical trials
  • Working on new therapeutics
  • Doing basic research in university labs
  • Creating treatments and therapies for rare diseases and neurological conditions
  • Research for cancer treatments
When babies are born, they go through various tests to make sure that they are in good health. To run these screening tests, researchers use about 160 million pipettes every year. The Department of Health and Human Services has prioritized delivering the materials required for this newborn testing, yet the problem is still persistent in healthcare, reasearch, and pharmaceutical industries.

What is Causing the Shortage in Pipette Tips?

There are many causes of this shortage that can be traced across the globe. Most notably, the COVID-19 pandemic increased demand for the tips, as they were used in testing. Internationally, manufacturers were left struggling to keep up.   As COVID-19 became more prevalent, people across the world were regularly getting tested, making it nearly impossible to keep up with the demand for pipettes. The U.S. Defense Production Act came about, and as a result, medical testing for the coronavius was prioritized, leaving other researchers without much hope for securing a stable supply chain.   Importing and exporting across international borders also presents a unique challenges for pipette manufacturers. Mandatory quarantines for incoming shipping containers delayed the delivery tips and other imported supplies. Additionally, less custom agents were able to work, slowing down shipments even moreso. Put simply, there aren’t enough people or resources to keep these crucial shipments moving on a tight schedule.   Due to the unprecedented winter storms in Texas, recent blackouts caused three of the largest manufacturers of medical-grade plastic lab equipment to lose electricity and shut down temporarilyy. Not only did this halt all production, but these factories were left with a large amount of damaged product. Also in Texas, there was a fire at a manufacturing plant that supplies 80% of United States’ containers for pipettes. This fire put polypropylene resin (the raw material used in plastic lab equipment) in significant demand and on backorder.   These natural disasters caused the prices of pipette tips and other research materials to skyrocket, and some consumers are now seeing surcharges doubled since before the pandemic.

How is it Hindering Biological Research?

Manufacturers are trying their hardest to keep up, but there is unfortunatly no end in sight. Many labs are left to prepare for the possiblility that they will be without any tips and no expectation of when they will arrive. As it currently stands, getting a shipment of pipettes can take months from the initial request.   Despite the shortage, biotech companies are still pressured to continue with their hardwork of development, analysis, and research. These companies are left with no option other than keeping pipette usage to a minimum, conserving as much of their stock as possible and sometimes going as far as to wash and reuse their tips. While most companies haven’t had to deal with halting their work just yet, it could eventually happen if the shortage continues.   It isn’t only the pipettes that scientists are running out of. Due to all of those factors mentioned above, they are struggling to find any plastic lab equipment, including petri dishes, tissue culture flask, and other research materials.  

Supplying the Demand

Running out of these essential items can cause your lab to put your research on hold until the manufacturers can catch up with the demand for supplies.   Contact MarathonLS today to discuss your lab equipment needs if you are worried about finding pipette tips. We are proud to offer a steady supply chain and a standing order program, alleviating the concern for stock that many lab managers are facing. We look forward to working with you.