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Travel Warnings and Risks When Exporting Research Materials

Published on
Jan 31, 2020

Many researchers at CHOP ship biological materials to international collaborators. Recently, the FBI and other federal law enforcement agencies have increased surveillance on the transport of biological materials. The Shipping Core would like to take this opportunity to share some background about this and share resources at CHOP to help ensure your materials are safely shipped and arrive at their destination on time.

Increased scrutiny by law enforcement agencies are focused on the transport of biological materials that may pose a threat to national security and on reducing the theft of intellectual property developed in the United States. In light of several recent incidents related to the transport of samples by individual researchers.  

Here are some reminders and resources for CHOP Research Institute staff shipping internationally.

Federal and international regulations govern the transport of many biological and other materials. These regulations require dangerous goods shipping for anyone preparing or transporting certain items. Specific import/export documentation, including licenses and permits from agencies such as the FDA, USDA, CDC and U.S. Department of Commerce may also apply to some shipments.

These requirements extend to research samples transported by individual researchers. Additionally, transport of biological materials by individuals requires pre-approval from the airline prior to travel.

Given the intricacy involved with transporting biologics safely, compliantly, and efficiently, the Shipping Core recommends all international shipment of biologicals (and related dangerous goods) originate from the United States by way of a commercial carrier/transporter such as FedEx, UPS, or World Courier. As a reminder, CHOP research staff are strongly discouraged from traveling with research samples.

The Research Institute Shipping Core and Office of Research Compliance can assist research staff to identify applicable regulations, secure certain U.S. licenses prior to export, and ship to international locations in accordance with federal and international regulations.

The Shipping Core is able to assist research staff to ship internationally via FedEx and World Courier. The Shipping Core’s full service shipping option also includes preliminary review of materials for various import/export requirements, including U.S. Department of Commerce Export Control. Full evaluation regarding export controls is performed by the Office of Research Compliance.

For research staff who prefer to ship independently of the Shipping Core (using the individual’s preferred and approved carrier), the Shipping Core offers a monthly Proper Transport of Dangerous Goods training. Trained staff are encouraged to contact the Shipping Core and Office of Research Compliance for import/export guidance and assistance based on their individual material and destination specifics.

Research staff who still prefer to transport biologicals on their own person, must:

  • Complete shipping training for biologicals and related dangerous goods within the past 2 years
  • Arrange pre-approval directly with the airline themselves, which includes disclosing all information relevant to the material(s)
  • Properly package and label the samples themselves
  • Confirm that all the required import/export documentation is available for inspection at the port of departure and arrival

The Shipping Core will not secure any airline approvals or prepare any shipments that are not sent directly from the Shipping Core.

If you have questions about shipping requirements or the services offered by the Shipping Core, please contact us at