Summary of 1st International Antibody Validation Forum


Lack of antibody quality control - burden for researchers

Commercial research antibodies are the most commonly used product in the life science tools market, and their applications represent a significant investment of time and resources for researchers. However, frequently the quality of antibodies does not meet the expectations of consumers, causing loss of valuable time and money. This can delay research efforts and scientific discovery, or even lead to producing false, unreproducible results to be published in the scientific literature. Although criticism of a lack of antibody quality control is a common complaint and source of frustration in the science community, only little has been done to appropriately address this problem. Quality control and validation of antibodies has proven challenging due to lack of a standardized validation scheme, and the high variability in an antibody’s performance in different tissue and cell types.

During the 1st International Antibody Validation Forum hosted by St John’s Laboratory on October 15th 2014 in London, the keynote speaker Dr David Rimm introduced the topic by highlighting existing challenges researchers face regarding antibody quality, and the problems associated with a lack of standardized validation for commercially available antibodies. Essentially, reports have indicated non-reproducibility of landmark studies where a lack of antibody validation was an overriding factor. The forum speakers, comprised of representatives from academia and industry, addressed the role researchers and suppliers should play in antibody validation in order to produce the most reliable and reproducible research results, the essential core of scientific credibility.


Challenges for manufactures

From a supplier’s perspective, Dr Mountzouris, site leader at Abgent, pointed out that one of the persisting problems is that the data for antibody quality frequently does not take batch-to-batch variations into account. However, some manufactures have initiated steps to review their quality control standards. Abgent themselves performed a screening of their antibodies, which resulted in a large number of their antibodies to be discontinued immediately. Chief Scientific Officer at Everest Biotech, Dr Voskuil, mentioned the problems associated with one manufacturer producing one product that becomes rebranded into various brands by many different suppliers, making it appear as if the vendors themselves are the primary source of all their antibodies. With significant batch-to-batch variations, especially among polyclonal antibodies, many of the quality control data can be misleading for researchers. In order to generate new data, large scale testing of antibodies would be necessary. Associate professor at Middlesex University, Dr Frank Hills discussed new technologies such as nanodot array luminometric immunoassay (NALIA), which are currently used for a wide variety of protein analysis, including the testing for autoantibodies. Dr Lund-Johansen from the Institute of Immunology at Oslo University presented an antibody-based proteomics technology called microsphere affinity proteomics (MAP). Further development of existing technology will be needed for its potential implementation of antibody validation.


New antibody validation paper category launched 

Dr Andrew Chalmers, lecturer at the University of Bath and founder of CiteAb, a citation-based antibody search engine, discussed the challenges for suppliers to generate all information by themselves for every possible application. The comprehensive data generated by independent validation is most likely the more reliable source of information for researchers to make an informed decision. The antibody search engine and review database pAbmAbs, presented by founder Dr Simon Glerup, provides a useful platform for researchers to publish and share antibody reports, including detailed results and methodology. The last talk by associate publisher Michael Mackie nicely concluded the meeting with the launch of F1000research, a peer-reviewed collection of antibody validation articles. This new type of validation article holds significant potential, and due to its application-specific detail may allow reproducibility to a higher extend than standard validation reports.

Although the meeting concluded that the impact of the lack of a standardized approach to antibody quality control at the current stage is significant, there are also promising opportunities for the future improvements of how we validate, select, and use antibodies with higher confidence and success for their intended purpose.