Asilomar Antibody Workshop Report
Irreproducibility of scientific research is at the forefront of problems that limit scientific progress and the translation of basic and applied research (Begley & Ellis, 2012; Freedman et al, 2015a; Freedman & Inglese, 2014; Hartshorne & Schachner, 2012). In recent years, the scientific community has mobilized to address irreproducibility of research antibodies. Scientists, funders, and journal editors have initiated activities, such as establishment of resource databases and requirements for information-sharing, to promote transparency and reproducibility of research in which antibodies are used. However, a single set of community-accepted validation guidelines and standards that is sufficiently comprehensive and accessible to the entire biological research community has not emerged to date. GBSI and The Antibody Society sought to build on existing efforts towards agreement on a common set of standards and processes for validation of research antibodies in its 2016 Antibody Validation: Strategies, Policies, and Practices Workshop. This Report describes the key messages and recommendations that emerged during the Workshop.
- Developing validation standards that apply to all stakeholders is difficult because of differences in available resources among producers and users, varied and diverse application by the user community, and the availability of sufficient scientific knowledge about the antibody target. Although the development of standards for validating research antibodies generally is viewed as needed by the producer and user communities, what the standards consist of and how they should be developed differ by individual and stakeholder group.
- Stakeholders have a shared responsibility for promoting reproducibility in biomedical research by validating antibodies used in many basic and applied research efforts. Producers have additional responsibility in developing and maintaining high quality and consistency during antibody production, communicating important reagent information and validation results, and promoting the transfer of this information with their product through distribution. Users have a responsibility to verify and independently validate antibodies before experimental use, train scientists on validation protocols and practices, and share information about validation results and antibody use.
- Information about antibody characteristics, production information, validation methodology, and validation results shared with customers improves researcher selection, verification, and further validation of research antibodies. Some of this information is already available to researchers through community resources (e.g., databases) and product information. Although attendees often differed in their views on the level of detail that should be shared, they ultimately identified a solution, which is to make validation methodologies and results accessible to end-users.
- Tracking and sharing both positive and negative results for antibodies would improve selection of high-quality, consistently produced antibodies, ultimately improving reproducibility of research.
- Suitability and performance of antibodies differ based on experimental use, specifically conditions and application. Antibodies that demonstrate high specificity in certain experiments may not in others. This observation holds true for antibody functionality in different conditions.
- Both fit-for-purpose validation (i.e., experiment-specific validation) and general validation strategies may be needed to assess research antibodies as commercial products and for specific use by researchers, respectively.