The Fixable Problems behind the In Vitro Reproducibility Crisis
“Standards” as a Dirty Word
Leonard Freedman, President of the Global Biological Standards Institute in Washington, D.C. published a paper last year in PLOS Biology which it was calculated that $28 billion is wasted yearly on irreproducible pre-clinical research in the US. In our interview with Dr. Freedman, posted on LinkedIn, he says that while that number became a big focus in the press, that this paper also outlined very achievable fixes for some of the most pervasive problems behind the In Vitro Reproducibility Crisis.
“The contributors to irreproducibility are numerous and complex. GBSI focuses on three core areas; science, policy/thought leadership, and training tools. We have four active initiatives that encompass those three core areas.”
Those initiatives encompass standardized cell line authentication, antibodies, human tissue procurement, and training for grad students and post docs.
Dr. Freedman goes on to talk about how his peers viewed his work when he first started, viewing “standards” almost as a dirty word. Half of the people he talked with were very enthusiastic, saying that this was needed in the community. The other half viewed his efforts as another burden to shoulder in an already stressful endeavor to maintain funding and run a lab.
He named NIH and the journals as both the carrot and the stick with researchers; “Beyond those, there isn’t a lot of carrot or stick.” Dr. Freedman says it is the whole community, though, that will have to come together to set out their own standards.
When asked about the role of cell conditions in the reproducibility of studies, Dr. Freedman said, “The issues that you’re talking about can be more subtle, but they can have as big of a contribution to an irreproducible result as misidentified cell lines.” He agreed that in the future, he could envision the NIH requiring the use of relevant models and conditions, such as physiologic oxygen, for pre-clinical research.
It is efforts like Dr. Freedman’s and GBSI’s that offer the hope of real and lasting change in the scientific community, particularly with our young researchers.
About the Author
Alicia D Henn, PhD, MBA
Alicia Henn has been the Chief Scientific Officer of BioSpherix, Ltd for two years. Previously, she was a researcher at the Center for Biodefense Immune Modeling in Rochester, NY. Alicia obtained her PhD in molecular pharmacology and cancer therapeutics from Roswell Park Cancer Institute in Buffalo, NY and her MBA from the Simon School at University of Rochester in Rochester, NY.