antYbuddY: Reviewing antibodies collaboratively

antYbuddY, a platform for independent review of antibodies with a supporting Q&A forum, just launched! It’s creator,  Dr. Giancarlo Barone, shared with us his story in this guest blog. Take it away Giancarlo.

I started the antYbuddY initiative over a year ago with my crowdfund campaign. Although not as successful as hoped it did give me a better understanding and raised further awareness with in the science community around the important issue of antibody validation.

The antibody market serving the biomedical and life science research sector is worth circa $2.5 billion per annum. It has been reported as much as 50% of antibodies sold are not fit for purpose. This means that over $1 billion of research funds are wasted on poor quality or ill-defined antibodies every year. This does not take into account the time and resources wasted by scientist to validate antibodies they have purchased for their experiments.

antYbuddY website
antYbuddY website

There are over 130 antibody sellers selling over 2 million antibodies, so the market is a bit of a minefield. In addition, many scientists are unaware of how the antibody market works. While many companies produce and market their own antibodies in house others don’t produce antibodies and only act as distributors. Instead, these distributors purchase their antibodies wholesale from the many companies that only produce antibodies for distributors to sell on. The problem here is that antibody distributors use their own packaging and product codes to the point that several different distributors may sell the exact same antibody originating from the same wholesaler. It’s easy to work out the potential pitfalls here. Unbeknown to many scientists, they can readily purchase the same antibody several times over from different distributors all using their own packaging and product codes. This is not an ideal situation if the antibody in question does not work to expectation. The advice I give here is look at the identifying antibody clone ID which will tell you if it is the same antibody irrespective of its distributor, packaging or product code.

The other important issue of note is batch to batch variation. Depending on the popularity of the antibody will depend on how soon a new batch of the same antibody is generated and sold to you and me. However, buyer beware, a new batch of antibody can differ greatly in performance. I have had this issue happen to me on several occasions. You buy the same antibody thinking it will work as good as the last one and all your Western Blots suddenly stop working. You think you have lost your touch but the most likely reason here is that you have just bought a new batch of antibody. Companies are now getting better at labelling the BATCH or LOT number on their antibody products but it’s important that we as scientists are all aware of batch to batch variation.

These pressing issues subsequently lead me to establish the antYbuddY website during my spare time and using my own resources I acquired a web developer.  As a working scientists myself, I hope assists my community with by offering an open platform for scientists to share journal quality antibody reviews. What I mean by journal quality is that all the important information needed as highlighted above is always listed, together with clear experimental conditions, figures with controls and figure legend. Antibody rating and a comments box are also included in every review. I equally welcome negative and positive antibody reviews but ask that they equally meet the ‘quality’ standard. For me, it’s about the quality of each review that is vitally important rather than hosting a very large quantity or poor and uninformative antibody reviews on my website.

I know how busy life in the lab gets. So, writing an antibody review in your spare time should come with a thank you. This led me to the idea of a ‘Rewards’ scheme for those spending their time to write a quality antibody review. To do this, I have tirelessly sought sponsors from the antibody market with the principal being rewards such as antibody discounts and Amazon Vouchers. I have secured several leading antibody sponsors, who clearly take the issue of antibody validation seriously and hope to add more as the platform evolves. I envisage one day, every scientist submitting a review on antYbuddY will be rewarded.

Click here to post questions and comments on the antYbuddY page on LabWorm.