Costs of making it from Scratch? (Kit inflation)

David L. Haviland, Ph.D. dhavilan at IMM2.IMM.UTH.TMC.EDU
Thu Apr 30 16:24:53 EST 1998

At 12:36 4/30/98 -0700, Marc Crepeau wrote:
>   How about a new newsgroup? bionet.molbio.mthds-reagnts.hackers! No
>discussion of kits and proprietary techniques allowed; only do-it-yourself
>methods welcome.

Not quite...Actually, such a group's focus would be the opposite - to bust
and break down and guesstimate the "secret reagent X", so that they could
make themselves!

Being a "DIY"'er for a number of years, I find that some "kits" give a time
advantage over some of the more traditional methods.  But that comes with a
price, 1) one ends up trusting "magic reagent X" and 2) how the system
operates is now proprietary information.  

My problem (and Jim's from a long discussion now 5 years past...) is that
new students tend to think of the new methodology as THE only means to do
the experiement.  If unchecked, the "kit-mentality" can have some
disturbing results on people --  I have *heard* from the mouths of graduate
students the querry "What kit do I need to buy to answer this question?".
This type of thinking needs to be blocked as early as possible.  

What is important as obtaining the data is also understanding how the
methodology works.   Take for example, "wizzards".  Their sleek and fast,
and for the most part the DNA digests with *most* enzymes and are condusive
to automated sequencing.  Well, what do you do if you're out of columns or
solution X??? If the only thing you know how to do is wizzards, you're
stuck.   If you know how it works, then improvisation is easy and usually
*much* cheaper than being in what I'll call the "kit-buying" rut, or the
famed "kit-addiction".

The thinking of how easy things are when everything preprepared tends to
generate very lazy thinking.  I just about blew a gasket when I heard a
post-doc bellyache that he'd hard a very hard morning doing 8 mini-preps
with a wizzard kit!   I didn't know whether to laugh or cry. 

When I've had to buy them, my first question has always been "how much can
I find out about how this system works and what can I do to keep it running
in my lab without having to buy another one?"  

The kit-mentality would likely change radically if one were in a situation
where the budget would only allow about $0.50 per mini...  how many
wizzards would that be?  Not much.   When labs are on a shoestring budget,
the first thing eliminated from the budget are the overpriced kits.

Dont' get me wrong.  I use kits, I have to because of time...  I'm aware of
the Kunkel protocol for site directed mutagenesis.  However, I'd rather
spend more time working with my mutant rather than on it - and for that,
you couldn't pry the Stratagene Quick-Change system out of my hands (no
affiliation!).  In one day, I'm looking at my mutants...   However, I *do*
know how the system works and what single reagent I'll have to buy to keep
the system going with "home-grown" additions.

On the other hand, I've also put grant $$ down on systems that I thought
were good but turned out to be real turkey-turds in the end...

Oh well,

 David L. Haviland, Ph.D.
 Asst. Prof. Immunology 
 University of Texas - Houston, H.S.C.
 Institute of Molecular Medicine  
 2121 W. Holcombe Blvd.  
 Houston, TX  77030 
 Internet:"dhavilan at" 
 Voice: 713.500.2413  FAX: 713.500.2424
Never take life seriously. Nobody gets out alive anyway.

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