The Darwin Initiative wins votes, but will it be effective and unbiased?

Thu, 04/24/2014 - 15:53

"Your Darwin Initiative would be huge! Both in scope and impact. [it's] possibly the best way to ensure satisfaction when choosing/selecting an antibody," respondent, Novus 2014 Antibody Quality Survey.

As part of Novus's ongoing commitment to our customers we recently started a survey program to better understand the challenges faced by researchers using antibodies. Our first survey explored antibody quality—what researchers expect, what researchers would like, and what problems researchers currently face in their antibody experiments (if you haven’t filled out the survey yet, click here , or download the report on the results-to-date from here). As part of the survey, we asked survey respondents to evaluate a few hypothetical antibody quality programs that we're thinking of adopting.

Out of the four proposed programs, the most popular by far was the Darwin Initiative, with eighty-three percent of respondents finding such a service “extremely valuable.”

Here’s what the Darwin Initiative is about:

The Novus Biologicals Antibody Darwin Initiative will begin testing all of our antibodies and competitors' antibodies against one another to select the antibody with the greatest specificity and sensitivity to each target using a scientifically validated, proprietary methodology. The methodology and test results will be available for scientific scrutiny. There will no longer be any question of "what is the best [select target] antibody.

The popularity is not too surprising, given that this program really gets to the heart of what antibody users want—specific, sensitive antibodies that work all the time.

"As a researcher, I want to quickly 'know' that an antibody will work for my application," 2014 Antibody Quality survey respondent.

As an antibody vendor, providing antibodies that work—and work well—is Novus’s main goal. Which is why we’ve already taken steps to get the Darwin Initiative off the ground.

The devil is in the details

But while the program is easy to discuss, developing the testing methodology to compare specificity and sensitivity across different applications is not trivial. We’re just now working out the details and hope to get the project launched soon.

And, as some of you noted, we will also need to overcome the natural skepticism of the scientist:

"My only issue with the Darwin Initiative [is] transparency; [it] would hold more weight if done by a neutral party," survey respondent.

With that in mind, we’d like to invite blog readers and antibody users to let us know in the comments section below what methodologies you’d recommend and what processes we can use to increase transparency and credibility for this program.

At Novus, we value the all the feedback our customers share because we’re working hard to be the best antibody company in the world.

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