Scamming the Antibody.

Pick and choose.

Has anyone noticed that suddenly there is a mushrooming growth of companies offering antibodies. Anything you can think of, protein, DNA, acetylation, phosphorylation, methylation- nothing is sacred anymore. All the Nature’s secrets can be revealed by these antibodies.

In the antibody, the researchers have found a wonderful tool to snub that stupid reviewer who doubts their hypothesis that their favorite protein has a wonderful modification called ‘titillation’. If you isolate your favorite protein under inebriated conditions looking at the full moon through your laboratory window (only if you have a window in your lab), the protein gets titillated.  Hell, no one has any clue what this titillation of the protein does, but all you have to do is to buy an anti-titillation antibody supplied by the BigAss Biotech company and smear it on your immunoblot.

So what if more protein bands light up than are catalogued in the proteome database, you are on the front grille of the ‘omic’ discovery train.  How can the reviewer ever refute your meticulous selection of the protein band that runs at the right size. For God’s sake (yeah I mean God, the ultimate reviewer) you even stripped (hopefully the blot) and reprobed with another funky antibody to again select the correct size band.  And you also know that if in your Experimental Methods section you write ‘anti-titillation antibody was used (BigAss Biotech, Timbuktu) according to manufacturer’s protocol’, no one, even God, can question its validity.

With the advent of proteomics, the new surge of antibody selling companies is not surprising.  More research is done using antibodies.  But it is more so because selling antibodies is a lucrative business.  It is almost a scam.  There is a well-known antibody company that has earned its reputation and fortune by selling antibodies that do not work.  Yet, it has managed to stay in business for almost 20 years!

Others are not any better.  Another company pretends to support and promote science by sponsoring and organizing scientific conferences and symposia.  They also invite free review of their products by researchers and end-users.  Oh give me a break.  If the end-user had time, he or she would have written that paper they have been contemplating for months, or at least completed the laboratory notebook.

Well, there is another ploy, make antibodies to anything.  It is easy.  Search the database for proteins, find the cDNA sequence, produce recombinant protein in some kind of  biological system and inject the partially purified protein into your animal of choice.  Antibody will be produced in a few weeks.  Most of these companies do not do any testing or quality control.

If you ask the Technical Support of the company, they will offer you something like this, “buy our antibody and see if it works.  If it does not work, we will give you another antibody’.

No, thank you sir!  I am NOT going to test your lousy antibody at my expense!  How stupid I have to be with my MD, PhD degree to buy a product at inflated price with no guarantee, and to test it so that you could refer to my work and my endorsement to make a killing?

Diamond price based on

Did I say a killing?  Yes, I did.  Antibodies sell at a profit where DeBeers would look like the corner grocery store.  Apparently, they have got knuckleheads working for them in their planning division otherwise, they would quit the blood diamond business and dive into the real blood business of making antibodies.

Antibodies cost more than diamonds! Do your maths, baby!  An aliquot of 100 microgram (usual packing size) costs on average US$ 300!  A 1 carat diamond (1 carat= 200 mg) costs approximately 10,000 dollars.  Remember that the inflection point for the price rise in diamonds is at 1 carat size, so this is a generous comparison.  Now if you see, a diamond would cost you at a rate of 5 cents per microgram but an antibody will cost you about 3 US dollars per microgram! Now that is a killing if you consider that a Diamond is forever, but an antibody…?  Well, go figure!

Just because NIH gave you that money to spend, don’t spend on crap.  Demand the best and insist on quality control.  If they fail to do that, make your own antibody.  There are numerous vendors who will produce antibodies for you at a fraction of the purchase cost.  What are you scared of?  In the worst case, your titillation will go undetected.