Guest post: Cut Your Lab Spending in Half

April 30, 2012 | Posted by Guest in Research |

This is a guest post by Sean Seaver, the founder of P212121.com (full bio below).

Small suppliers of chemical and laboratory reagents are known to provide quality products at significantly reduced costs. And yet, large distributors such as  Sigma and Fisher often crowd out smaller entities, making it difficult for laboratories to find or access cheaper supplies.

Compounding matters is the difficulty small suppliers face in reaching customers. Small suppliers don’t have access to a large sales force, and can’t afford the standard costs associated with roadshows or conferences. They often lack the resources to build an online presence, either in-house or contracted, limiting the availability of online catalogs or pricing information, and making it difficult for scientists to see the benefits of their services.

Recognizing these factors, we’ve worked at P212121 to help bring greater transparency to the small chemical supplier market. The P212121 platform helps bring small suppliers and their pricing catalogs online, helping scientists save time and money.

Resultant savings have already been significant, especially in comparison to Sigma, Fisher, and other large distributors:

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How can core facilities better connect with the researchers who need them?

April 29, 2012 | Posted by Team in Core facilities, Research |

The following article appeared in the “Solutions” section of the 2012 ABRF Communications magazine, distributed that the 2012 ABRF conference in Orlando, FL.  

A View from the Core

When Dr. Todd Waldman MD PhD, made his ground-breaking discovery into the genetic basis for glioblastoma multiforme (GBM) brain tumors, he did so through the help of core facilities. GBM is the most common and deadly form of primary brain tumor; it was infamously responsible for the death of Senator Edward Kennedy in 2009. Dr. Waldman’s molecular oncology group at Georgetown University discovered that multiple GBM cell lines have mutations in the STAG2 gene, which cause chromosomal instability during cell division. To explore the clinical relevance of his findings, Dr. Waldman turned to the Lombardi Cancer Center Histopathology and Tissue Shared Resource (HTSR). The HTSR stained multiple tissue microarrays containing primary GBM and Ewing’s carcinoma samples for STAG2, and confirmed that the protein was indeed missing in many primary tumors. These results were a critical component of the paper published by Waldman and colleagues in Science last year. (Learn more about how the HTSR helped Dr. Waldman and his colleagues here).

Projects like Dr. Waldman’s are at the heart of a core facility’s mission, namely to provide investigators with the specialized resources and expertise they need to produce the best possible scientific output. As a primary resource for human patient tissues and histopathology expertise, the core was able to give the study its translational focus, demonstrating the clinical significance of Dr. Waldman’s findings. HTSR has a highly skilled and experienced staff that handles approximately 2000 requests for services each year, providing a degree of expertise and professionalism that would be hard to match by an individual researcher attempting to build up the necessary techniques in their own lab.

And yet, core facilities often remain under-utilized. HTSR Co-Director Dr. Deborah Berry PhD realized that despite internal demand, there were times when the facility was not as busy as it could have been. In short, they had excess capacity that they could be using to fuel translational research beyond the borders of their institute.  Dr. Berry realized that researchers from other institutes could greatly benefit from the resources and expertise she and her colleagues could provide.  But, how could she reach them?

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New Facility Management Tools & Project Dashboard

April 26, 2012 | Posted by Team in Core facilities, Science Exchange News |

Over the past couple months, we’ve been looking for new ways to help providers manage their services on Science Exchange.  Our users have sent us some amazing suggestions, and we’re now proud to announce the launch of our biggest product update yet: Facility Management Tools.

We’ve created a host of free features, helping providers add new services, track ongoing projects, or report on past projects. Read below for more details.

Facility Management Tools

Through Science Exchange, providers can access a free Facility Management page, where they can track and monitor their services.

Providers can now add new services or instruments they would like to provide through their institution. They can also set price groups for internal, external, and for-profit requesters of those services. To use any of these features, providers can go to their Dashboard, and choose one of their facilities on the left.

To learn more about the Management features, see the tutorial at: scienceexchange.com/how_it_works#administration

Publication Tracking

We’ve also added new tools to help providers track the impact of their services in publications. From the Publications Tab on a Facility Management page, providers can now add papers that requesters have published using their services.

Project Reports

To help providers better monitor the progress of past projects, we’ve built a suite of reporting tools. Through the Reports Tab on a Facility Management page, providers can now see all revenue generated from individual projects, requesters, or price groups.

Send Us Your Feedback!

We’d love to hear what you think of the new management tools. If you have any questions or concerns, please send us an email at [email protected].  You can also find helpful tips in our Help Center at: scienceexchange.com/help

Science Exchange provider 3Scan awarded $350K by Thiel Foundation

April 17, 2012 | Posted by Team in Science Exchange News |

At Science Exchange, we’re continually inspired by the accomplishments of our service providers as they seek to make scientific services more open and available.

As such, we’d like to congratulate one of our listed providers, 3Scan on receiving $350K in grant funding from the Thiel Foundation’s Breakout Labs.

3Scan was one of six grantees awarded for their potential to commercialize new methods in scientific research. They develop 3-D reconstructions of brain tissue, using novel Knife Edge Scanning Microscopes to produce high-resolution images within a short time-spans.  The increase in funding will help 3Scan continue their operations while maintaining full control of their IP, given the unique funding model of the Thiel Foundation.

Again, congratulations to 3Scan. We look forward to following their groundbreaking venture in the years to come.

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Response to New York Times article on research reproducibility

April 16, 2012 | Posted by Elizabeth in Research |

Earlier today the New York Times posted an article about the retraction of non-reproducible research (“A Sharp Rise in Retractions Prompts Calls for Reform“).

It’s great to see the New York Times publicize this issue, which was also the focus of a recent blog post I wrote on the lack of reproducibility in research.

In that post I provided some suggestions that could potentially help address the problem of non-reproducible research. I believe the starting point should be the incentives that drive scientists – namely reputation and grant money (of course scientists are also driven by curiosity and a desire to improve the world but these are not factors that determine which scientists are successful and actually become tenured professors). The current system actually discourages collaboration because scientists who share ideas, data and resources may miss out on a publication (get “scooped”) and this will result in them missing out on grants and career progression. This obviously creates a self selecting system where successful scientists are those that do not collaborate.

There are, however, examples where the incentives against collaboration aren’t as strong. Core facilities, who provide scientific experiments on a fee-for-service basis, are judged on revenue and feedback from the users of their facility rather than from publications and grants.

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The Weinersmiths “Thanks for all you do”

April 10, 2012 | Posted by Dan in Science Exchange News |

A belated thanks to The Weinersmiths (@ZachWeiner and @fuschmu) for the wonderfully kind note and two super awesome “Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal” books… a cause of much distraction at Science Exchange HQ over the last week.

Weinersmiths

If you haven’t already you should definitely check out Zach’s awesome webcomic SMBC, and Zach and Kelly’s podcast The Weekly Weinersmith.

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The Need for Reproducibility in Academic Research

April 6, 2012 | Posted by Elizabeth in Research |

Reproducibility, the ability to replicate or reproduce experimental results, is one of the major tenets of the scientific method.

However, in the case of academic preclinical research, reproducibility (or more accurately the lack of reproducibility) has become a significant problem. An increasing number of reports have found discrepancies in published preclinical studies across scientific disciplines. For instance:

These studies, and the many others that report similar results, highlight a significant problem in the development of new therapies to treat disease. The identification of potential drug candidates typically happens in academic research labs. Pharmaceutical companies then use these new drug candidates as the basis for their drug development efforts. With increasing reports of discrepancies in preclinical publications, pharmaceutical companies are being forced to re-evaluate their reliance on academic research (see Bayer’s decision to halt nearly two-thirds of target-validation projects).

So why do so many preclinical publications contain research that can’t be reproduced?

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Guest post: Collaboration, Credit and Convenience—Addgene’s Reagent Sharing Model

April 5, 2012 | Posted by Team in Research |

This is a guest post by Joanne Kamens, Executive Director of Addgene (see full bio below). 

So much time, effort, heart and soul go into every unique research reagent generated.  Lab tech, graduate student, industry scientist, post-doc or principal investigator—every life scientist has experienced the joy of creating a useful reagent, only to feel the pang of sadness when it is banked in the freezer and never used again.  Or perhaps you are one of the few lucky ones who made something truly clever and useful and now all your colleagues want it but you can’t keep up with the requests and get your other work done.

Addgene is a non-profit repository for plasmids, small circular DNA reagents, used in life science research all over the world.  Based in Cambridge, Addgene has over 17,500 unique plasmids in its library and ships over 6,000 plasmids every month.  Depositing is free and there is a small fee to request plasmids.   Just like a frequent flyer program, Addgene rewards scientists who share with the community by giving them reward points each time their plasmid is requested. Currently, Addgene distributes plasmids only to academic organizations but by the end of 2012, some limited parts of our collection may become available to industry requestors.

Addgene’s mission is to facilitate collaboration and sharing.  There are many hurdles we help to overcome.  Read the rest of this entry »

Elizabeth featured in Fast Company

April 4, 2012 | Posted by Team in Company |

Science Exchange Co-Founder and CEO Elizabeth Iorns was profiled in Fast Company magazine, with a focus on her journey from an academic scientist to an entrepreneur.

Here is a short excerpt from the article:

FAST COMPANY: What’s wrong with how science happens today?

ELIZABETH IORNS: One thing that’s really interesting about science now is that it’s funded in a way that is quite old-fashioned. Large grants go to a single investigator, and that guy dispenses it as he sees fit, buying equipment, training students how to use it, and so on. It’s very inefficient. You could spend six months learning to do one technique, do it once for a particular experiment, and then move on and never use that technique again. It would make more sense if people collaborated efficiently, each using their specialized expertise.

You can read the full article online here.

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