Avoiding problems in your experiments by buying your research reagents in bulk

Kristie Brown

Jun 18, 2013

‘Hmm,’ you think, ‘that’s weird. Maybe I screwed up.’ And so you repeat the experiment, more carefully this time, aware that you’re burning through your already meagre sample volume. You get the same result. Why aren’t the controls working?

You go through everything, and find the only thing that’s changed between this experiment and the last was the new vial of antibody or protein you used. Did you reconstitute it properly? Did Dave leave it on the bench over the weekend, again? Damn you Dave! (We’ve all worked with a ‘Dave’, at some point…)

Ah, apparently he didn’t. Hmm. Best call up the supplier and see if they’re aware of any issues. Nope. Their QC data seems fine. Maybe order a new one and try again; something’s definitely up.

Now you’re a week or so behind, with pressure mounting, more samples arriving, and freezer space rapidly filling up. To make matters worse, someone just snatched up all the remaining stock. It’ll take them a few weeks to grow up a new batch, test it and get it shipped. Dammit.

If you’ve worked in any type of bioscience lab for any period of time you’ve probably run up against something similar to the above; the frustration of a method or experiment which suddenly stops working, or gets delayed while you wait for a new lot of a key reagent to be made, QC tested, bottled and shipped from the other side of the Earth.

The majority of manufacturers put a huge amount of effort into ensuring that each lot of a product is consistent. They use tools like Levey-Jennings charts to track the performance of each lot they make, and ensure it’s within specification; binning lots that fall outside of their limits. Many suppliers pride themselves on it; setting specifications for activity, purity, specificity, range and so on.

But, even with all of this effort, chances are, they are not using your test system in their QC procedures. So, sometimes, subtle variations in a new lot can mean they just don’t behave as expected in your assay, despite meeting the manufactures specification and their best efforts to ensure consistency.

Nowhere is this more important than when you are in the middle of a big study, with large numbers of samples coming in, waiting to be analysed. Be it a western blot, ELISA, a FACS assay, or something else, under these circumstances a long wait for new material means time lost as you investigate, test the new lot, or wait for delivery, as well as money. In short, it’s a pain. So, sometimes, it makes good sense to buy in bulk, especially if you are about to start out on a large or long term project.

Pivotal Scientific has got together with a number of manufacturers who are able to provide their products in bulk. We list thousands of products, from antibodies, peptides and recombinant proteins to full ELISA and ELISpot kits, to help you with your research project. And because we are working with these manufacturers to promote these products, not as a distributer or reseller, there’s no extra cost associated with going through us. Just let us know what you’re after, and we’ll put you directly in touch to deal direct with the suppliers.

Not only does buying in bulk mean you get long term consistency for your experiments,  you’ll also reap the rewards of the economy of scale; its costs less for a manufacturer to produce a larger lot, bottle, QC test and ship it once, than it does to produce smaller lots more often. And they will pass that saving on to the buyer, driving down the per assay cost for your lab.