As interest in proteins and antibodies continues to grow, the need to accurately and fully characterize them grows too. But with this increasing demand for analysis comes an increasing risk of failed tests.
Placing a simple “gatekeeper” at key points can vastly reduce the chance of errors, and make sure that all your resources are spent wisely.
A gatekeeper technique is a quick, low-cost QC check which confirms that a sample is ready for a lengthy or costly technique. This prevents waste, and makes projects run faster overall.
Follow these three golden rules to make sure gatekeeping is used effectively in your research
1. Weigh up all the costs
To evaluate the actual or potential impact of a gatekeeper technique, all costs need to be considered – not just the financial cost.
Ask where you or colleagues might be wasting;
Time – of individuals, of instruments, or in waiting for results to come back from external sources
Sample – particularly at stages where this is scarce or valuable
A given step in research may have negligible cost in one of these categories, but considerable cost in another which still makes it a good candidate for gatekeeper placement.
Remember to consider knock-on effects as well as the immediate ones. Running a bad sample wastes your time, but if this is a high-demand instrument have you also slowed down colleagues?
Effective gatekeeping should make your work more efficient and will usually have an immediate impact.
Some good places to consider in a protein preparation and analysis environment are; before Cryo-EM (financially costly), before AUC (costly in time), or even before SEC (costly in sample).
2. Choose carefully
You’ve identified where, now choose how.
A good gatekeeper technique should;
- Be placed before a lengthy, costly or otherwise demanding step
- Give you a clear go / no-go result
- Itself have very low time, cost and resource demands
Think carefully about what you need to identify a go / no-go – this will vary depending on what you are gatekeeping, but could be concentration, aggregation, quality or simply presence.
After this research the techniques available to measure it, and decide which best suits your application. It may be worth trialing a method before you commit, to see if it fits with your aims and your workflow.
3. Make it a habit
Once you have installed a gatekeeper technique, make sure it is used every time.
Get everyone who needs it trained and comfortable with the method quickly. Make it a part of your SOP, your training documents, your induction process. Communicate why it’s important – illustrating the cost or time savings where you can to underline this.
The gatekeeper will only bring benefits if it’s always used and listened to.
This example illustrates how a gatekeeper could be planned in to your analysis sequence;
- $100 / hour (plus optional training, screening)
- 7-10 day wait after pre-booking time
Gatekeeper - MDS analysis Fluidity One
- $5 / sample
- 10 minute test
5 µL (50 ng) of sample spent
Do not proceed to Cryo-EM if; aggregation, oligomerization, unfolding or other unknown changes are present
Do proceed to Cryo-EM if; result matches to expected value
Take a moment to step back, look at your lab’s waste points and think about how you could stop them.
How much time could you save with just one effective gatekeeper?