Experts in biological sample storage and logistics management, CRYONISS offers a comprehensive storage service at ambient, +4°C, -20°C and -80°C, as well as vapour phase liquid nitrogen.

The Cheshire-based Cryoniss team has a wealth of experience in supporting drug discovery projects, from early stage target identification through to clinical trials and life cycle management.

What the company prides itself on most is enabling its clients to carry out exceptional science by ensuring samples remain of the highest quality.

Researchers must be able to have confidence in the data they are producing, said chief executive Sonia Houghton, alluding to the debate that has been raging behind the scenes for years now.

Reproducibility – or the lack of it – is perhaps one of the greatest challenges facing the research community, and our reputation as scientists, today.

In 2016, Monya Baker, editor of the highly respected Nature magazine, asked 1576 scientists if they had ever had trouble reproducing results.

Over 70% said yes, they had been unable to reproduce another scientist’s experiments, and more than half admitted they had failed to reproduce their own.

In conclusion, 90% of the survey sample said there was either a ‘significant’ or at least an element of crisis in terms of reproducibility.

Sometimes un-reproducibility can be due to the over-generalisation of the original results. Or, it can be because of methodological faults such as poor experiment design or technique.

But depressingly, it often comes down to the use of substandard reagents in the first place.

“At Cryoniss, we believe that reagent quality is the cornerstone of research excellence,” said Sonia.

“So, besides ensuring samples are stored in optimal conditions, we also endeavour to provide our customers with the most up-to-date guidance on sample handling and best practice documentation.

“We provide co-ordination services for the quality control testing of research cell lines too, using key contract research organisations who, in our experience, provide the most sensitive and reliable screening assays.”

Screening is available for that bugbear of research, mycoplasma, as well as human and murine viruses, and cell sterility.

Cryoniss also offers the most robust of cell line authentication services for human, mouse, rat, dog and interspecies contamination testing – the best starting point for the grassroots revolution needed to begin righting the wrongs of widespread un-reproducibility.

Sonia said: “Essentially, we have aligned ourselves with the International Cell Line Authentication Committee and its ethos, namely that researchers and departments need to take matters into their own hands by publishing their own internal reagent quality policy.

That’s not hard to do. The University of Colorado has published a draft reagent policy online, so a template is available.”

Just having a policy in place would provide the parameters needed to begin tackling the ills of flawed research. This is not just a problem for the cell biology community, antibodies and other reagents also need qualifying.

Sonia said: “Large pharmaceutical companies are well aware of the impact of the use of incorrect reagents and have excellent measures in place to guarantee the quality of research undertaken.

“They simply cannot afford to invest up to $2 billion on a drug discovery project, based on poor quality data.”

However, as Fusenig et al. from the International Journal of Cancer highlighted in 2017, institutions, industry journals and research funding bodies have had to step up to the plate too, she said, by reinforcing the requirements for scientists to submit high quality controlled data.

“Fusenig and the team explained the apathy they faced from industry peers, alongside the challenges implementing a due diligence process confirming the validity of reagents used prior to article publication,” she said.

“Granted other journals are signing up to this, however there is so much more we should be doing as a community.”

Take the lack of accountability for the problems caused by mycoplasma, for example. Considered a plague in tissue culture circles, in one study, conducted by Anthony O. Olarerin-George and John B. Hogenesch, mycoplasma was found to have infected 11% of the 9395 data sequences analysed.

And yet, the reports on the contaminated series were published in a slew of top, peer-reviewed journals and these articles were subsequently cited – two of them hundreds of times over – suggesting their importance in their respective fields. The majority have not been retracted.

But to begin at the beginning, the only way scientists in this field can guarantee the quality of data is to take ownership of their research, and their reagents. For example, maintain a mycoplasma-free lab, and the only way to do that is to use qualified starting cell lines, adhere to best practice tissue culture techniques and employ a routine mycoplasma screening assay.

Sonia said: “Fundamentally, we need to change the culture in the scientific community to encourage scientists to publish negative data and to retract articles if they have found inaccuracies in their research.

“Only by acknowledging the negative as well as the positive data do we really begin to understand the full context of the problem being investigated.

“To truly galvanise a grass-roots revolution, we need those departments, companies and institutions who are doing great science to proudly publish their own reagent quality policy. When scoping out a new contract research organisation to work with, or a new collaborator, why not ask a basic qualifying question, how do you ensure the quality of your reagents?”

“Whilst at Cryoniss we are not going to be able to rectify this global challenge on our own, we can do our part by providing a high-quality, easily accessible service. Our customers just need to email us to coordinate a QC test, and they get their results back the following week. It is that simple!”