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Guidelines for management and use of the scientific Collection of Environmental and Laboratory Microbial Strains (CELMS) at the Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology, University of Tartu

 1. General

The Collection of Environmental and Laboratory Microbial Strains (with the acronym CELMS) is a non-medical scientific collection that contains microbes isolated from different contaminated soil and water samples, mostly from Estonia, including the Baltic Sea. The collection was established in order to collect and preserve microbes able to biodegrade various pollutants or producing useful compounds. Additionally, the collection holds microbial strains that are selected and/or constructed in laboratory conditions and bear certain characteristics.

The CELMS collection was founded in 1995. Since the year 2008 the collection is registered at WFCC-MIRCEN (World Federation of Culture Collections, World Data Centre for Microorganisms, registry number 926). CELMS is a member of ECCO (European Culture Collections’ Organisation). The collection is financed by the Estonian Ministry of Education and Research. CELMS is located at the Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology, University of Tartu (23 Riia Street, Tartu 51010). The guidelines for using the collection can be found here at this website, the public catalogue is available on the Estonian Electronic Microbial dataBase (EEMB) website ( in English and Estonian. 

2. Special regulations

The idea of the CELMS collection is to promote microbiological studies, especially in case of the strains having potential value in industry and biotechnological enterprises, including applications reducing environmental pollution. On the other hand, the aim of the CELMS collection is also to preserve the microbial strains as our public wealth. Coming from the fact that the CELMS collection deals with a genetic resource, it has to meet the demands of the Nagoya protocol. The Nagoya Protocol on Access to Genetic Resources and the Fair and Equitable Sharing of Benefits Arising from their Utilization (ABS) to the Convention on Biological Diversity is a supplementary agreement to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). It provides a transparent legal framework for the effective implementation of one of the three objectives of the CBD: the fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising out of the utilization of genetic resources. 

The CELMS collection is divided into two different catalogues:

1) The public collection with a catalogue available on the EEMB website: the microbial strains with thoroughly characterized features, data of which has been published. This collection is open for international ordering free of charge;

2) Non-public microbial collection that has restrictions for public use coming mostly from copyright issues (Budapest Treaty, World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO)) and that will be included to the public collection after becoming free from restrictions (patents, copyright, publishing conditions etc).

Storing and maintaining of the first collection as well as managing the respective database and catalogue are responsibilities of the collection manager and the collection curator. The second collection has a general catalogue with restricted access (on a server of Tartu University (\\ with access of restriced range of persons). Storing of this collection is a responsibility of scientists working with these microbes on a daily basis, until these strains will be added to the public collection. Information about these strains is stored in the catalogue encoded and in accordance with the law.

The value of microbiologically and genetically uncharacterized strains could not be determined and hence these microbes are worthless for public use.

The CELMS collection is open for ordering and free use only for non-commercial acitivities. The potential commercial use must be regulated via the copyright contracts with the persons who isolated and characterized the strains in accordance with the rules approved in the University of Tartu and according to the laws of the Estonian Republic.

3. Structure and management of the collection

The collection is formed of collected, bought and donated as well as laboratory constructed/selected microbial strains and the respective information stored in the digital database.

When submitting new strains to the public collection of CELMS, a contract (Material Transfer Agreement, MTA) is signed between the person submitting the strains and the collection manager. This contract must contain information about the submitted strain(s): specific characteristics (ability to degrade or produce certain chemicals, resistance to drugs, presence of plasmids etc), general (isolation location/source, important features necessary for strain identification etc) and specific information (nucleotide sequence and GenBank deposition data) as well as information concerning published scientific data and restrictions coming from copyright issues etc. These contracts are signed and archived.

Management of the collection is done with the help of electronic database developed on the basis of dbForge Studio forMySQL Professional. In the nearest future, the CELMS database is planned to be integrated to the eBiodiversity web interface (

The CELMS collection also coordinates and collects data about all other microbial strains stored and used in Estonia, mostly coming from the need to fulfill the requirements of the Nagoya protocol, coordinated by the FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations).

4. Storage and viability control of the samples

The storage items (microbial strains) are stored at -80°C in multiple parallels in multiple freezers. Isolated strains are preserved inside sterile cryovials. The terms of preservation (temperature, running maintenance of the freezers) are controlled by the staff responsible for the collection. The freezers are equipped with fault detection and alarm transmitting systems. In case of danger to the storage rooms, actions are in compliance with the university security rules.

The collection is preserved in locked refrigerators. The collection is accessible only to the assigned personnel, in absence of those persons only to the assigned substitutes. No third party has access to the collection.

5. Use and availability of the collection

The strains preserved in the collection as well as all information about them are freely available for use for academic research (non-commercial purposes) within the institution.

The microbial strains are available for other institutions of the University of Tartu as well as other parts according to MTA (Material Transfer Agreement) for academic research (non-commercial purposes). For signing the contract, please contact the collection personnel. These contracts are archived.


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Version 09.11.2021