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Cambridge MedChem Consulting

Lack of reproducibility with antibodies

A slightly worrying article in Nature, Reproducibility crisis: Blame it on the antibodies.

The lack of reproducibility of published data on potential drug targets has been highlighted on several occasions DOI and it has been suggested that this is a major factor in the failure rate for phase 2 clinical trials DOI.

In almost two-thirds of the projects, there were inconsistencies between published data and in-house data that either considerably prolonged the duration of the target validation process or, in most cases, resulted in termination of the projects.

Antibodies have rapidly become a key tool in understanding and identifying new drug targets and potentially used as biomarkers to identify patients. However it is clear that many of the 2 million commercially available antibodies need to be checked rigorously, with some scientists claiming more than half are unreliable.

In 2011, an evaluation4 of 246 antibodies used in epigenetic studies found that one-quarter failed tests for specificity, meaning that they often bound to more than one target. Four antibodies were perfectly specific — but to the wrong target.

Caveat emptor.