The initiative kicked off in July 2013 but has only gained traction in the past few months, says Iorns. “We've done hundreds of tests so far, and we're planning to do 10,000 this year.”Successfully validated antibodies are awarded a green check mark “badge” for the vendor's web site. “We are trying to establish this as kind of a sign of quality,” says Stefan Pellenz, who runs the validation initiative at antibodies-online. But companies gain more from the process than just a logo, he adds; it is also a marketing tool, conveying to users that their reagent vendors take quality control seriously. Furthermore, the validating labs can work with the vendor (via Science Exchange) for troubleshooting. In one case, an ELISA kit shipped with a bad dilution buffer that was masking the target protein signal. Once the lab figured that out and reported it back to the vendor, the kit was updated subsequently passed validation “with flying colors,” Pellenz says.
Antibodies that fail validation are neither flagged nor removed from the antibodies-online catalog, though the company will inform users should they ask, so Pellenz recommends investing a few minutes to call technical support prior to purchasing any new antibody. To date, 47 antibodies and ELISA kits actually have been approved, though many more than that have been tested, and web site users have flagged an additional 1,200 antibodies they would like to have tested. Science Exchange and antibodies-online are also validating a collection of key reagents on their own, “to seed the antibodies-online catalog with validated antibodies and ELISA kits to establish the IV badge,” Pellenz says. According to Pellenz, 8 of antibodies-online's 10 biggest vendors have expressed interest in the validation program, as have about three-quarters of their vendors overall. They cannot possibly test every antibody in existence—there simply are too many of them, and in theory, each lot must be tested anew, a cost-prohibitive proposition. But it's a start. And given the importance of antibodies in life science research, it's a good one. Read more of the article in BioTechniques.