Friday, October 29, 2010

Oh, so it wasn't us?

More about the same old same old
I’ve mentioned in various posts that our lab bought one of those new-generation DNA sequencers (what, two years already now? And we haven’t a single paper to show for it?). There was an upgrade to what should be a doubling of Felix’s* capacity over the summer, and since then the runs we’ve done have been no better - and sometimes worse - than what we obtained before.
First, we just didn’t know how to deal with the new procedure.
Then it was determined by the technical hotline that we didn’t keep Felix clean enough. Repeating that run after a new cleaning round was just as bad as before.
Then, yes, we had a bad batch of DNA.
Then, well, we just didn’t have as much data as we should, probably our quantitation was off.
And again, we were still not putting in the amount of DNA we should. We should revise our quantitation protocol. We should do this, we should do that.
But we’re still having mediocre results. Not usually out-and-out disasters. But not what we’ve been promised, and not what we see coming out in the literature. We’ve been knocking our heads against the walls, trying to figure out what on earth we’re not doing right.
So this latest return from tech support is both a relief and a cause for vigorous fist-shaking.
Stop! Don’t run another sample! Felix is broken!
Apparently some pump somewhere is not delivering the right amount of reagents at the right time. If it were completely broken down, we’d get no results at all. But it seems to be working badly, and this is the source of our mediocre data.
Four months we’ve been tearing our hair out.
Perhaps for four months we’ve been working miracles to get any results at all.
They can send us reagents to replace everything we’ve used.
They could send us a check to cover the salaries of the people doing the work.
But they can’t recover the damage to our reputation when we run samples for outside clients. Nor can they repair the loss of competitivity that results from not being able to publish.
I just want somebody out here right now this morning to fix it, and then I want it to work the way they say it’s going to work.
* we call the machine Felix because all our major equipment is named. The old workhorse sequencer is Bob, and the thermocyclers are Bruce & Robin, etc.


Niamh B said...

great news, so it should run like a dream now! Good luck.
Fingers and toes crossed for ye

Argent said...

You use a different set of terminlogoly to me, but, oooh, how familiar is this story! We had a similar experience - albeit in days rather than monthst - recently. Turned out not to be our fault either. We won't get any compensation though.

steven said...

grrrrrrrrrrowl!! there are so many bridges being built between the human experience and technology and so many of them are rickety or poorly designed. the promises and the imagined possibilities often exceed the actualities. steven

shabby girl said...

Probably even more frustrating because you were working so very hard...and it wasn't anything you were doing wrong.
All that energy being spent! Can't wait for you to get the relief of spectacular results!

NanU said...

Depending on who you talk to, the company is insisting that this defective part only had an effect on the very last experiment. They're still not out here fixing it.
One thing we found hilarious in their tech support's letter was 'it is suggested that the client change the content of their sample'. Sure, we'll just drop the gene we're working on and go do something else!