The Open Secret about the HER2 Assay with Jim Vaught


Jim Vaught, Editor-in-Chief, Biopreservation and Biobanking Journal Bio and Contact Info

Listen (6:50) The importance of better biosamples only recognized in the past 10 to 15 years

Listen (2:30) Is there still some convincing to do?

Listen (3:39) A new biospecimen science

Listen (6:55) The HER2 story

Listen (8:46) What can be done ?

Much of biomedical research is carried out on biospecimen samples. Yet the quality of samples used varies a great deal. This directly affects research outcomes for the worse.

Unfortunately, it’s become quite passé to say that a majority of biological research cannot be reproduced. This issue has been addressed recently by the head of the NIH, Francis Collins, and many others, and yet rarely do we hear that much of the problem is actually in the degradation of the samples studied.


Today we begin a new series Back to Basics: Improving Biospecimens, where we’ll look at some of the issues around biosamples. What is involved in sample collection? How do these issues affect drug development? What are we learning from the new science of sampling, and what can we do to raise standards?

To start us off, we’re joined by Jim Vaught, Editor in Chief of the Biopreservation and Biobanking Journal. Jim gives a great introduction to the topic of biosampling and offers a striking example, that of the HER2 assay, that demonstrates why we must bring more attention to improving biospecimens.

Podcast brought to you by: Quintiles - bringing people and knowledge together for a healthier world.

Bio-Sample Quality Matters! Carolyn Compton, ASU


Carolyn Compton, Professor of Pathology, ASU
Bio and Contact Info

Listen (5:40) Quality of biomarker data limited by quality of biospecimen

Listen (5:24) Degradation of samples

Listen (5:17) Are researchers concerned enough about the history of their samples?

Listen (5:38) What can researchers do about poor samples?

Listen (5:27) Raising awareness at the NCI

To begin our series Raising the Standards of Biomarker Development, it seemed fitting that we start with a crucial topic which affects the entire development chain for biomarkers--that of biospecimens. Carolyn Compton is a professor of pathology at Arizona State University and Johns Hopkins. And she has a message: The quality of bio-samples matters.

Carolyn says that issues around bio-sampling are quite overlooked by the research community, for there is often the assumption that "all samples are the same." Yet this is far from the truth. As a former clinical pathologist, Carolyn knows first hand how much samples can degrade from the time they're taken to when they are safely stored.

"Researchers will quality control the extracted biomolecules, and then they will measure them. But they never think about the quality of the sample and whether or not the measurements they're taking reflect the biology of the disease they're studying," she says in today's interview.

She's fond of the phrase we often hear from data scientists: "Garbage in, garbage out."

Why don't researchers consider the issues of sample degradation? Is it just too overwhelming? A pandora's box? And furthermore, what can a researcher do to improve a sample?

Carolyn is passionate about her message. She was recruited by the NCI to focus on the issue of sample quality and was able to raise awareness in that context. Better awareness is the beginning, she says, and there are things researchers can do.

Podcast brought to you by: National Biomarker Development Alliance - Collaboratively creating standards for end-to-end systems-based biomarker development—to advance precision medicine