While a new protocol for validating antibodies from the Structural Genomics Consortium goes part way toward addressing one of the biggest sources of irreproducibility in academic research, stakeholders agree a widespread solution will likely require a matrix of methods rather than a single technique. But what they don't agree on is who should foot the bill.
The debate involves antibodies used as research reagents, and extends to four principal issues: Who should set the standards? Who should enforce them? Who should do the work of validating antibodies? And who should pay for it?
NIH's James Anderson told BioCentury there is no doubt that poor methods and reagents are one of the major causes of the low success rates in reproducing results from published papers - a growing concern in translational science.
"About half of the reagents researchers buy to track proteins don't recognize what's written on the label," or are not specific for the target protein, he told BioCentury.
Anderson is director of the Division of Program Coordination, Planning and Strategic Initiatives at NIH.
Stakeholders who spoke with BioCentury outlined several factors that are involved in ensuring antibody quality.
First, validation needs to address different technologies including polyclonal, monoclonal and recombinant antibodies, which have varying degrees of batch-to-batch variability.
Second, the requirements for validating an antibody vary