ATCC’s collections include a wide range of biological materials for research, including cell lines, molecular genomics tools, microorganisms and bioproducts. The organization holds a collection of more than 4,000 human, animal and plant cell lines and an additional 1,200 hybridomas. The molecular genomics collection at ATCC contains 8 million cloned genes from a host of species, including human, mouse, soybean, rat, monkey, zebrafish and several disease vectors. ATCC’s microorganism collection includes a collection of more than 18,000 strains of bacteria from 900 genera, as well as 2,000 different types of animal viruses and 1,000 plant viruses. In addition, ATCC maintains collections of protozoans, yeasts and fungi with over 49,000 yeast and fungi strains from 1,500 genera and 2,000 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 on a cGMP basis 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.
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 U.S., while the remaining 25% are international customers. ATCC maintains authorized distributors in Europe, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong, Singapore, South Korea 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.
ATCC supplied Iraqi organisations, including Baghdad University, with several pathogens between 1985 and 1989. These include Bacillus anthracis (the causative agent of anthrax), Aspergillus fungal cultures producing the mycotoxin aflatoxin), Brucella melitensis (causing brucellosis), Clostridium botulinum, Clostridium perfringens, E. coli and Salmonella cholerae-suis. This frequently cited list, however, includes both difficult-to-obtain, highly dangerous organisms like anthrax and common, easily identified organisms found in most or all households worldwide, such as the principal aflatoxin producer Aspergillus flavus, a species especially ubiquitous on peanuts or in maize corn fields, and E. coli, found in all animal guts and most natural waterways.