YCharOS: a potential solution to the ‘antibody horror show’
In a new editorial for the F1000 YCharOS Gateway, the University of Leicester’s Dr Harvinder Virk and Dr Michael S. Biddle review progress so far and explain lessons learned from the YCharOS project. This insightful and far-reaching editorial follows on from F1000’s recent ‘In Conversation With’ interview about the YCharOS project’s open science mission to characterize commercially available antibody reagents for every human protein. The editorial also draws on Harvinder’s and Michael’s experience and expertise as contributors to the Only Good Antibodies (OGA) group – a diverse cross disciplinary collaboration of individuals and partner organisations with interests in biomedical research, behavioural science, meta science, data science and research assessment that was set up to address the problem (sometimes referred to as the ‘antibody horror show’) of antibody reagents’ quality and the lack of validation for specific purposes.
In the editorial, Harvinder and Michael provide guidance for laboratory researchers worldwide on how to use the YCharOS data to make antibody purchasing decisions. They also highlight key learnings from the project for the challenge of improving antibody reagents. These findings include:
- The YCharOS dataset has corroborated what has been referred to as the ‘antibody horror show’ – referring to the inadequacies of research-tool antibodies, which has detrimental implications not only for individual projects and scientists but also for entire research fields.
- As a collaborative Open Science project YCHarOS has established an ecosystem in which scientists and industry collaborate to rectify commercial antibody catalogues demonstrating that progress can be achieved, particularly when stakeholders work together.
- Initial data suggests that commercial catalogues do already contain a significant number of renewable antibodies necessary for studying the human proteome but significant further work is needed to scale up activities to identify these antibodies.
- Part of the challenge stems from the research incentive landscape; YCharOS’ work does not directly lead to disease-related discoveries, which is where funding is primarily directed in biomedical research. Characterisation experiments are seen as too costly to be a financially viable aspect of the manufacturing process. However, the continued use of non-specific antibody reagents in pre-clinical research is inefficient and expensive. Therefore, investing in antibody characterisation could yield a substantial return on investment.
- YCharOS offers an innovative model: as a third party with no commercial interest in the outcomes of characterisation their data offers a less biased source compared to an antibody vendor.
The full editorial can be read here: https://f1000research.com/articles/12-1344