Quality Reagents: Three Keys to Choosing Wisely

There is a major reproducibility issue in clinical research, and reagents that lack rigorous quality control are partly to blame. Estimates of irreproducibility range from 75% to 90%,1 with past approximations of the cost weighing in at $28B per year in the U.S. alone.2 Of this staggering amount, 36% was caused by substandard “biological reagents and reference materials,” equaling over $10B annually.2 While this outcome is certainly devastating, the damage done to the industry’s shared mission of improving health is immeasurable.  

We’ll discuss how to eliminate problems with research reagent quality, but that’s not the only issue: You must also safeguard against reagent misuse. Whether the cause is product-purpose mismatch or improper handling, unreliable results are usually the outcome.  

Safeguarding your research starts with choosing the right source for your reagents; this is essential. Your decision comes down to three basic criteria: 

1. Experience 

2. Transparency 

3. Collaboration  

1. Experience 

Experience doesn’t always guarantee quality, but it can be a good starting point in your search. The trick is to verify that the company’s longevity is tied to quality, because you’re not just buying their products, you’re also buying their expertise. Your potential partner’s past projects and interactions inform what you can expect today, so exploring their history will tell you who they are and what they bring to the table.  

Study their past and current partnerships for loyalty. If they’ve supplied a reputable client for decades, it indicates they’re doing something right. Also, ask around: Word of mouth is a great way to gauge the strengths and weaknesses of potential partners.  

How a company does their work is obviously important, but the kind of work they’ve done weighs equally. If your prospective partner’s history demonstrates a dedication to innovation, this indicates an organizational commitment to the continuous improvement of their solutions. Proactively extending the cutting-edge yields benefits to the consistency, quality, and scope of a company’s offerings. Positive word of mouth combined with ongoing initiative signify honed processes, a solid quality-compliance foundation, and high-quality research reagents. 

2. Transparency   

The quality of your reagents is obviously vital to the quality of your results … but without adequate insight, how do you know what you’re buying? Partner with an organization that’s open about their processes and standards and that welcomes questions about their operating philosophy. Dig into their industry compliance and quality assessment standards. Expect full descriptions that detail product and purity information — transparent organizations will supply them. 

Manufacturing efficiency also matters. Discussions on everything from initial ideation to packaging and shipping will help bring the process into sharper focus for you. Be assured that every product your partner sends will be rigorously tested to guard against wasted time and expenditures; you can’t afford such needless losses.  

3. Collaboration   

The quality of your collaboration has profound impacts on the effectiveness of research reagents on multiple levels. While the earlier criteria guide the search for high-quality products, this one helps you zero in on two points: 

• Making sure you have exactly what you need

• Knowing how to use it correctly

First, when you engage with a potential partner, it’s important they don’t skip straight to the contract. If an organization is interested in your success, they’ll take the time to discuss your project, custom formulation needs, and any other relevant points to make sure that you are ordering the right thing.  

Second, make sure that getting the right products is just part of the partnership. As mentioned, the improper use of research reagents is partially to blame for the industry’s widespread irreproducibility problems. You need a flexible partner who’s ready to collaborate when on demand — from Ph.D.-level experts on down. Supporting their product and your program not only reduces the potential for user error, but it also demonstrates a real interest in your success and a belief in the quality of their products.  

Securing Consistent Quality 

Don’t let subpar research reagents or a lack of expert guidance lead to reproducibility problems for your project — we all know the consequences. Collaborate with an organization that operates on the frontier of research, applying each new learning to their own improvement. Insist on a partner who helps you discover the right solution AND ensures you have the guidance to use it correctly. That is how you can secure a consistent source for high-quality research reagents. 

Discover how Prolytix combines high-quality research reagents with unrivaled customer service to provide the best products for your clinical research. 


1 https://www.ahajournals.org/doi/10.1161/CIRCRESAHA.114.303819  

2 https://dx.plos.org/10.1371/journal.pbio.1002165 

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