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The Truth About Antibodies used for Research

The Problem with Antibodies used for Research

Antibodies used for Research in academic, industrial and therapeutic fields are universal reagents in molecular biology assays. Without them, the entire field of medical research could collapse. However, there are many crappy antibodies out there – this is well known. Moreover, scientists often disregard the need to investigate and validate the antibodies they’ve purchased.

”Scientists often know, anecdotally, that some antibodies in their field are problematic, but it has been difficult to gauge the size of the problem across biology as a whole. Perhaps the largest assessment comes from work published by the Human Protein Atlas, a Swedish consortium that aims to generate antibodies for every protein in the human genome. It has looked at some 20,000 commercial antibodies so far and found that less than 50% can be used effectively to look at protein distribution in preserved slices of tissue.”

Antibodies used for Research : The Reproductibility Crisis

In 2015, Monya Baker wrote about the Reproductibility Crisis with Antibodies used for Research in Nature News in 2015. She describes that the results of many biomedical experiments cannot be reproduced and that the conclusions based on them may be unfounded. Notably, it appears that a lot of scientists shop on price and speed of delivery, which are variables that don’t always correlate well with reagent quality.

In our opinion, trusting what’s on label may or may not be the best strategy for any scientist. With the new era of scientists relying on web-based research hoping to find, what they see as reliable sources, the best and cheapest antibody within 10 min of Google searches, the problem with Antibodies used for Research is not about to be solved. Yo a lesser extent, there’s an analogy to be made with primer design tools for DNA amplification by PCR. Nowadays, young scientists rarely design primers by hand and rely on algoryth-based design softwares. They’re often good of course, but they may not entirely consider what the scientist wishes to probe by PCR using their available tools and the nature of the template DNA.

Problem with Antibodies used for Research

Private labelling, OEM and dilution : Who says the Truth about Antibodies used for Research?

Now comes the difficult part. The Truth about Antibodies used for Research is that you never know where your antibody really is manufactured. The problem is that the research antibody market has grown so much in the last 3 decades that a reputation for quality is becoming part of some suppliers’ business plans. But most notably, many want to be able to offer the largest portfolio or Antibodies used for Research as possible.

What is Private Labelling?

Private-label products or services, also known as “phantom brands”, are typically those manufactured or provided by one company for offer under another company’s brand. Private-label goods and services are available in a wide range of industries from food to cosmetics to web hosting and of course, biomedical reagents such as Antibodies. They are often positioned as lower-cost alternatives to regional, national or international brands (think about the low-cost Biotech companies), although recently some private label brands have been positioned as “premium” brands to compete with existing “name” brands. The opposite may also be true, i.e re-labelling an inferior product into a ”premium” new product.

OEM and Antibody Dilution

OEM stands for Original Equipment Manufacturer Hence, an OEM is a company that makes a part or subsystem that is used in another company’s end product. For instance, if Acme Manufacturing Co. makes power cords that are used on IBM computers, Therfore, Acme is an OEM. By similarity, if company X manufactures the antibodies used in company Y’s ELISA kits, X is the OEM supplier of company Y.

Notably, The resale of diluted antibodies is probably the most horrifying practice, but it exists. You can see this from big name companies in Example 1 and Example 3 just below.

Are these Practices Wrong?

Don’t get me wrong here. Private labelling and OEM are normal practices in all spheres of business. They are actually good practice and encourage competition. The problem with the field of Antibodies used for Research is that most companies (especially the big ones) wish to offer scientist with the largest portfolio possible. Their strategy is thus aimed at making scientists buy every antibody from them. Basically, they want to become richer of your back. The real experts are actully the OEM/private label companies behind these antibodies. Most of the time, if you can find them, you can purchase the orginal antibody from these companies and save tens or hundreds of dollars.

Those companies who ”pre”-dilute antibodies indeed have questionnable practices…

But it’s not the end of the Problem!

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