Antibodies are one of the most widely-used tools in biological sciences. However, they are also one of the major causes of the reproducibility crisis plaguing bio-medical research. Reproducibility involves the ability to repeat experiments with reagents identical to those used by previous researchers. In the case of antibodies, this can be easily done, provided their primary sequence is known.
Antibodies with known sequences are often produced in vitro, and referred to as chemically-defined antibodies, or recombinant antibodies (rAbs). On the contrary, monoclonal antibodies are often not sequenced, and polyclonal antisera are a variable mixture of several undefined antibodies. It is clear that recombinant antibodies are much better characterised reagents, increasing tremendously the replicability of experiments compared to monoclonal or polyclonal antibodies.
Since 2014, the Geneva Antibody Facility provides the research community with easy, affordable access to well-characterized rAbs, and stimulates the replacement of poorly-characterized animal-derived antibodies, to generate better and more reproducible data, in a collaborative way. This is currently done via 5 main initiatives:
(i) An open-access database of sequenced antibodies (ABCD database), providing an unambiguous identifier for each antibody;
(ii) Low-cost production of rAbs by a spin-off company of the university of Geneva (ABCD antibodies SA);
(iii) A technical journal (Antibody Reports), focusing on the experimental validation and characterization of rAbs;
(iv) Sequencing of hybridomas;
(v) Discovery of new rAbs by phage display.