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ATCC is a private nonprofit organization in the life sciences field whose mission focuses on the acquisition, authentication, production, preservation, development and distribution of standard reference microorganisms, cell lines and other materials for research and development. Established in 1925 as the American Type Culture Collection by scientists and incorporated in 1947 to serve as a worldwide repository and distribution center for cultures of microorganisms, ATCC has developed into the global leader in research and development expertise for identifying, characterizing, preserving and distributing a wide range of cell lines and microbes. Aside from maintaining the biological resources, an R&D program and product development teams, ATCC also competes for federal grants and contracts and engages in partnerships and collaborations with academic institutions and private companies.
ATCC serves U.S. and international researchers by characterizing cell lines, bacteria, viruses, fungi and protozoa, as well as developing and evaluating assays and techniques for validating research resources and preserving and distributing biological materials to the public and private sector research communities.
ATCC’s collections include a wide range of biological materials for research, including cell lines, microorganisms and bioproducts. The organization holds a collection of more than 3,000 human and animal cell lines and an additional 1,200 hybridomas. ATCC’s microorganism collection includes a collection of more than 18,000 strains of bacteria, as well as 3,000 different types of animal viruses and 1,000 plant viruses. In addition, ATCC maintains collections of protozoans, yeasts and fungi with over 7,500 yeast and fungus species and 1,000 strains of protists.
In addition to serving as a biorepository and distributor, ATCC provides specialized services related to its overall mission as a biological resource center. Individuals and groups can employ a safe deposit service for their own cell cultures, providing a secure back-up for valuable biomaterials if required. ATCC also is able to retain secure samples of patented materials and distribute them according to instructions and approval of the patent holder. ATCC provides expert biological repository management services to institutions, agencies and companies wishing to outsource the handling of their own culture collections.
ATCC biological standards are vital to assuring reliability of research results, reproducibility of experimentation and consistency in the scientific method. Standards from ATCC also help scientists in a wide range of industries ensure safety and quality in their products. ATCC reagents are cited as standards by such federal agencies as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, as well as organizations such as AOAC International, the Clinical and Laboratory Standards Institute, the U.S. Pharmacopeia, and the World Health Organization. ATCC-produced standards are used in a wide range of applications including the development of therapeutic and diagnostic medical products, food safety, water and environmental testing, and to obtain actionable forensic information.
ATCC headquarters and production facilities are based in a 126,000 sq ft (11,700 m2) building in Manassas, Virginia. This includes the 18,000 sq ft (1,700 m2) biological material repository which contains 200 freezers to store biomaterials, including vapor-phase liquid nitrogen freezers, mechanical freezers, and cold rooms for storage at 4°C. Electricity at the repository is backed up by on-site generators. The facility also includes 35,000 sq ft (3,300 m2) of laboratory space.
The community of users of ATCC products and services is international, and includes researchers in academia and government, as well as private industry. Over 80% of ATCC’s 17,000-strong customer base represents academia and industry – 42% from universities and colleges and 41% from private industry. Government customers comprise 6% of the organization’s total. Three-quarters of ATCC customers hail from the United States, while the remaining 25% are international customers. ATCC maintains authorized distributors in Europe, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong, Singapore, South Korea, Israel, and Taiwan, and makes other international shipments directly from its Virginia facilities. Among the industries represented ATCC’s customer base are the pharmaceutical, biotechnology, agricultural and diagnostics industries, as well as food, beverage and cosmetics makers and reference and testing laboratories.
The ATCC also has working links with several other international culture collections, such as the UK's National Collection of Plant Pathogenic Bacteria (NCPPB), Belgian Co-ordinated Collections of Micro-organisms (BCCM), the Deutsche Sammlung von Mikroorganismen und Zellkulturen (DSMZ, or German Collection of Microorganisms and Cell Cultures), the Japanese Collection of Research Bioresources (JCRB), and others.
- Clark, W.A. and D. H. Geary. 1974. The Story of the American Type Culture Collection – Its History and Development (1899-1973). Advances in Applied Microbiology 17:295-309.
- World Federation for Culture Collections
- Berns KI; Bond EC; Manning FJ, eds. (1996). "The American Type Culture Collection". Resource Sharing in Biomedical Research. Washington, D.C.: National Academies Press (US). Retrieved 14 May 2016.
- "Who We Are". ATCC. Retrieved 14 May 2016.
- FDA (CFR 172, 173, 436, 444, 455, 460, 610); USP (Chapters: 51,61,62, 63, 71,81,91, 115, 171, 1035, 1046, 1072,1211, 2021)