Here we have collected the most frequently asked questions about our facility and services.

If you don’t find the answer for your problem/question, please contact our customer support bvc-support@helsinki.fi, we’re always happy to assist you!


What is HelVi-BVC and how can I start my experiments there?

HelVi-BVC is a virus core unit of the Faculty of Medicine in the University of Helsinki supported by the HiLiFE. Our services include manufacturing viral particles for our customers, but we also offer a BSL-2 facility for recombinant virus work. In our facility you can conduct your lenti- or retrovirus experiments if your group doesn’t have any other access to a BSL-2 facility. Our BSL-2 facility is located in Biomedicum 1 building (Haartmaninkatu 8, 00290 Helsinki), 5th floor, room C505b. To start your work in our facility you first need to attend our biosafety training and registered as a new user. To get the training and registration please contact bvc-support@helsinki.fi.

How is HelVi-BVC related to FuGU Libraries and Genome Biology Unit?

HelVi-BVC is a part of Helsinki Virus Cores and GoEditStem service platform. HelVi-BVC isn’t and hasn’t been part of FuGU or FUGU Libraries (aka FuGU Virus), but due to historical reasons and collaborations these core units shared the same customer support email and common names. In the Spring 2021 FuGU Libraries core unit was discontinued, but the services of the core were distributed among HelVi-BVC and the Genome Biology Unit (GBU); the production of lentivirus particles is offered by HelVi-BVC, whereas the TRC and CRISPR library services are now under GBU.

How do I make an order?

Please send your order to our customer service bvc-support@helsinki.fi.
For more information about ordering, please read the additional information here.

How are the prices determined?

HelVi-BVC is a non-profit unit of the Faculty of Medicine in the University of Helsinki, supported financially by Helsinki Institute of Life Science (HiLIFE). The guidelines of pricing are given by the University of Helsinki finances personnel and the pricing is approved by the faculty before publishing.

HelVi-BVC price list consists of three different price categories:

  1. Internal customers, i.e. customers from University of Helsinki
  2. Customers from Biocenter Finland universities and customers with separate contract with HelVi-BVC. Please note that old FuGU Library contracts are not valid anymore. To inquire about possible ordering contracts, please contact our customer service.
  3. External customers, i.e. customers from other universities (excluding BF universities), institutes and companies.

The internal prices consist of reagent and expenses costs only (no VAT added or included). BF prices consist of expenses costs including VAT. External prices include material costs and expenses, labour costs, margin and 24% VAT.

How can I request a quote? How can ask for an order?

Please, send your inquiry to us by email: bvc-support@helsinki.fi.

Where can I find HelVi-BVC office, HelVi-BVC BSL-2 facility and your per­son­nel?

Biomedicum Virus Core is located in Helsinki Meilahti campus in Biomedicum 1 building, Haartmaninkatu 8, 00290 Helsinki. Our office is in room B508b (Klefström lab) and the HelVi-BVC BSL-2 facility is in room C505b.

To reach our office take the Biomedicum 1 main elevators to the 5th floor, turn left towards the left side of the B wing and follow the signs to “Translational Cancer research” and “Bioimaging Unit”. Enter the door when you see a sign on a window with HelVi-BVC logo. Follow the corridor until you reach the first lab and see our HelVi-BVC sign again on a freezer. Our office desk is on the left and you have reached your destination (B508b). If you wish to visit our office and meet us in person, please book an appointment beforehand.

To reach our BSL-2 facility take the main elevators to the 5th floor. From the main elevators, go straight ahead to the C wing and take the first door on the left. When you’ll come across a T-crossing, take a right and walk until you reach first, closed lab space on the left. On the facility door there is the HelVi-BVC logo and BSL-2 sign. To enter you need to take our biosafety training and have 5th floor access to your key card.

How can I contact HelVi-BVC?

If you have any questions about our services, orders, prices etc. please contact our customer support bvc-support@helsinki.fi. When there is an emergency, you can also reach us by calling the Klefström lab phone number: + 358 2 941 25494 or visiting our office B508b. Our emergency contact information can also be found from the HelVi-BVC door or from our biosafety manual.

What is the approximate delivery schedule for different products or services?

  • Lentiviral particles: 3 - 5 weeks
  • Concentrated lentiviral particles: 3 - 5 weeks
  • Retroviral particles 4-6 weeks
  • Concentrating/sucrose purification for customer virus: 1-2 days after virus media delivery (agree the media delivery separately with customer support).
  • RCV/p24 test: The test results are sent the same day as the test is executed.
  • GBU’s library products: please contact GBU customer support bch-gbu@helsinki.fi for more details

Please note that the exact delivery schedule is defined separately for each order and the customer is notified when the order is ready to be shipped or collected.

Do I need to have a GMO li­cense for us­ing len­tiviral particles in my ex­per­i­ments? How about to work in the HelVi-BVC facility?

Yes. Every group, institute or customer is responsible to have their own valid GMO license and permit. For DNA distributed by GBU you must have a license for biosafety level 1 material and for lenti-/retroviruses and BSL-2 lab work you need to have the GMO license for biosafety level 2.

Do I need to mention you in my acknowledgements?

Yes. Every time you order our products or use our services you agree to our terms of order, and therefore you are expected to mention us in your acknowledgements or in materials and methods.

I have used your services and your facility; how do I cite your services?

You can cite us for example the following way:

Lentivirus generated from customer DNA:
Lentivirus particles were generated by Biomedicum Virus Core facility which is supported by HiLIFE and the Faculty of Medicine, University of Helsinki, and Biocenter Finland.

Lentivirus generated from library constructs:
Lentivirus particles were prepared and distributed by Biomedicum Virus Core facility supported by HiLIFE and the Faculty of Medicine, University of Helsinki, and Biocenter Finland. The clones XX/YY were from Sigma Aldrich MISSION shRNA library/Sanger gRNA library, distributed by Genome Biology Unit core facility supported by HiLIFE and the Faculty of Medicine, University of Helsinki, and Biocenter Finland.

Using the HelVi-BVC facility:
BSL-2 facility for virus work was provided by Biomedicum Virus Core facility supported by HiLIFE and the Faculty of Medicine, University of Helsinki, and Biocenter Finland.

HelVi-BVC facility services

How does the HelVi-BVC work?

After you have been granted the rights to use our facility, you can conduct your experiments in our facility at your own pace and use the facility as much as you need. The user fee covers the most common cell culture plastics and waste disposal. The user is responsible to keep an eye on the materials, reagents, CO2 levels and equipment used. Users are also expected to keep the facility in order, fill the incubator water tray and prepare more Virkon and ethanol if needed.

Here is a roadmap for working in HelVi-BVC facility:

  • New user: contact our customer support and schedule a biosafety training.
    • Get registered and take the biosafety training.
    • If you haven’t been working in the HelVi-BVC facility after the facility moved in the summer of 2019, it is advisable to have a quick tour in our new facility.
  • Book your hood hour from our online reservation calendar before you want to start your work. We recommend to book your time slots at least a week earlier to ensure you get the time slot you want.
    • Be on time! It is better to reserve to facility for longer period rather than be late and take someone else’s time.
  • Using the facility:
    • Clean the area after your work.
    • Keep an eye on the materials and CO2.
    • Inform the HelVi-BVC management if something needs to be ordered of if an equipment is broken. (Order list in the front room of the facility).
    • Dispose your waste properly.
    • Mark your items with your and group names and date.
  • UV the laminar hood before you leave. Use the timer, at least 15 min.
  • Mark in your hours in the InnoLims system
    • Contact HelVi-BVC customer support if you have forgotten your InnoLims extranet password.

What does my contract include? What does the user fee include?

With the basic HelVi-BVC facility contract includes access to the facility, equipment, waste disposal, all the materials and reagents provided by the HelVi-BVC. All this is covered by the hourly fee of 23€/h. Basic BVC users are also obligated to report their hours to InnoLims system.

With the STEMM contract there is no user fee, and you don’t need to report your working hours in InnoLims. However, the STEMM users are not allowed to use the facility plastics or reagents, gloves or other protective gear. Users with STEMM contract need to provide their own gloves, sleeve and shoe covers, plastics, media and supplements. The STEMM contract includes only the facility and equipment use, Virkon, ethanol, laminar and incubator sterilisation, and waste disposal. Though the STEMM users don’t need to report their working hours, they need to book the laminar from the HelVi-BVC calendar (this is for the Board of Gene Technology recordkeeping).

How do I book a hood in the HelVi-BVC facility?

Book your time to use the laminar hood using our online calendar. Contact our customer service for the password.

  • Choose the correct date and time you want to use the facility.
  • Select the correct calendar/reservation type: BVC laminar (green), STEMM laminar (yellow), EVOS microscope (blue) or centrifuge (red).
  • Mark down your name and group.
  • Reserve enough time for your experiments, cleaning up and for UV sterilisation.
  • If you can’t make it to your reservation or your schedule changes remember to cancel or change your reservation.

How do I report my hood hours?

After you have finished your work in the facility, you need to report the time you spent working in the facility to the InnoLims system. You can use the computer in the BVC facility front room to report your hours.

  • Log in with your email address and with the password given to you by the HelVi-BVC management to the InnoLims extranet.
  • Click the “Hood hours” tab on the left side.
  • Mark in the hours with 10 min accuracy.
  • Note: you only need to report the time you’ve actually spent in the facility, i.e. if you have had long incubation or centrifugation and you have been absent during this time, you don’t have to include the time you were absent to your hood hour report.

How can I use the ultracentrifuge?

The ultracentrifuge is provided and maintained by the RPU, so using the instrument is free and it is not charged separately. HelVi-BVC has a suitable rotor (SW32Ti, 6 buckets, V = 38 ml) for the centrifuge that can be borrowed free of charge upon request. However, using the ultracentrifuge requires precision and skills, and we recommend that any new users are introduced and taught how to use the centrifuge. If you’re a new user, please contact our customer support and schedule an introduction.

Before using the ultracentrifuge:

  • Make sure you know how to use the instrument!
  • Book the instrument with the calendar located next to the centrifuge.
  • Acquire a rotor!
    • You can borrow the rotor in Klefström lab (SW32Ti) B508a1, but you need to inform the HelVi-BVC customer support first and book the centrifuge separately with the calendar (can’t be booked with the BVC online calendar).
  • Important:
    • You need to have your own ultracentrifuge tubes for the rotor buckets (HelVi-BVC doesn’t provide these).
    • Always use all buckets at the same time, never run the rotor only half full. If you don’t have enough samples for all buckets use for example PBS for the balance.
    • Before use, clean the tubes and the buckets with Aa ethanol.
    • Each bucket and lid is numbered, remember to use correct lids with correct buckets.
    • Balance the rotor very carefully! The weight difference between different buckets can be only 0.01 g! Note that off-balanced ultracentrifuge rotor can easily break the whole instrument.
    • Place the rotor inside the centrifuge. Place the buckets in the rotor to the correct numbered places. Check that the buckets can swing out. Close the lid and set the speed, time, and temperature. Start the run.
    • If using viral particles place a biohazard sign on the centrifuge when the program is running.
    • When you start the run wait until the centrifuge reaches the goal speed. If you hear weird sounds or noises stop the run immediately.
    • After the run, release the vacuum before opening the lid. Remove the buckets and rotor carefully.
    • If there are viral spills inside the centrifuge inform the HelVI-BVC management. Prevent the virus from spreading. Clean the spilled area with Virkon and 70% ethanol.
    • After you have removed the viral tubes from the buckets clean the buckets with 1% Virkon and 70% ethanol, and dry them properly
    • Return the rotor and buckets to Klefström lab by the end of your reservation.

What do I do if I face problems or emergencies in the HelVi-BVC facility?

Before starting your work in our facility read the biosafety manual. You need to know what to do if problems occur!

If you injure yourself, if something is leaking, there’s a CO2 emergency or if viral particles are spilled outside a laminar always contact our customer support or call HelVi-BVC coordinator Ellisiv +358415792954 (this number is for real emergencies only!)

I have taken the biosafety training few years ago, can I still use the facility?

Yes. You don’t need to retake the biosafety training. However, it is good to check with the facility management that your information is found from our customer database and that you are still on our mailing list. In addition, sometimes the key card access might be limited if you haven’t used the facility for a while. Therefore, it is good to check that your card still works. If you have forgotten your InnoLims extranet password, please contact our customer support to reset it.

Virus services

Which packaging system is used for lentiviral particle production?

In HelVi-BVC we use second generation lentiviral packaging system in our lentivirus production. Thus, our packaging system is suitable for both 2nd and 3rd generation transfer vectors. GBU’s TRC shRNA library constructs are in 3rd generation transfer vectors.

How much plasmid vector DNA is required for viral particle production?

Following amount of customer DNA is required per one viral construct:

  • MINI scale: 5 μg
  • MIDI scale: 10 μg
  • Concentrated virus: 30 μg (for 180 μl) or 60 μg (for 360 μl)

How are the products delivered to me?

  1. You are welcome to pick-up your order from HelVi-BVC office (room B508b) after the customer support has contacted you and informed that the virus is ready.
  2. HelVi-BVC will deliver your products via University of Helsinki internal mail. The products are shipped at noon and should be delivered during the same working day.
  3. Your order will be delivered via transportation company, such as DHL, FedEx and TNT. The shipment fee is charged from the customer.

I would like to order products from the shRNA and gRNA libraries, how do I proceed?

Please contact Genome Biology Unit customer support (bch-gbu@helsinki.fi) with your library product inquiries.

What kind of shRNA and gRNA library services do you provide?

Since FuGU Libraries service unit was discontinued in Spring 2021 shRNA or gRNA services are not provided by HelVi-BVC. However, the Genome Biology Unit still distributes clones from TRC1 shRNA library and the Sanger CRISPR knockout gRNA library. For more information, please visit the GBU web page or contact their customer support.

I would like to order a product from TRC1.5 or TRC2 shRNA libraries, what options do I have?

Unfortunately, GBU’s library only covers the TRC1 library. If you wish to have products, e.g. lentivirus particles from the TRC1.5 or 2 shRNA libraries you need to purchase these products from different distributors. Your options are:

  1. Purchase a plasmid and deliver it to HelVi-BVC for lentivirus production.
  2. Purchase a glycerol stock and produce the plasmids yourself, and then deliver the plasmids to HelVi-BVC for lentivirus production.
  3. Purchase the ready-made TRC1.5/2 lentivirus from different a distributor.
Qual­ity and titer

The p24 test measures the p24 capsid protein from lentiviruses and gives you a titer value, i.e. p24 protein concentration (pg/ml). We determine the p24 concentration for all lentivirus products we produce and for our internal lentivirus control. Only exceptions are the TRC and CRISPR gene sets; with these lentivirus products we only test one clone. Customers can also order the p24 titer test for their own lentiviruses.

The p24 test is only suitable for the lentivirus particles, and it cannot be used for retrovirus particles.

What is the difference between pg/ml and TU/ml?

TU/ml (Transduction units/ml) varies between different cell lines and needs to be determined or tested for each case separately. TU/ml indicates how well a virus construct infects target cells. TU/ml value is usually 10- to 100-fold higher compared to the lentivirus p24 value pg/ml.

The p24 tests gives you the concentration of the p24 capsid protein in pg/ml. This concentration can be used to calculate the actual number of viral particles. There are approximately 1 x 104 physical particles of lentivirus for every pg of p24 antigen.

What is a RCV test?

Cells that have been transduced with lentiviral particles should always be tested negative for replication competent viruses (RCV) before taking them to biosafety level 1 area. The RCV test ensures that your cell culture is virus-free, preventing biohazard environment (cross-contaminations and human users).

The test is only suitable for lentivirus particles. There are similar commercial test kits for retrovirus particles as well, but currently HelVI-BVC doesn’t offer these test as a service.

When is the next RCV test?

The RCV test is done every second Wednesday (odd numbered weeks). You can find the test dates from our booking calendar.

How should I store viral particles ordered from HelVi-BVC Libraries?

Viral particles can be stored at -80°C for up to one year. The infection activity is highest for fresh viruses and will decrease if the particles are frozen. However, most virus particles used for standard purposes can be frozen. Avoid thawing and freezing cycles of the particles as this lowers the viral titer and may destroy the infection activity.