Our article ‘Reproducibility of Preclinical Data: One Man’s Poison Is Another Man’s Meat’ was published recently by the newly established journal Advances in Precision Medicine.
The inability to reproduce findings in preclinical biomedical research is often considered to be a key factor for the lack of efficiency and productivity in drug development, as reflected in the disconnection of preclinical research findings and new drug approvals over the past two decades. If insufficient attention is given to crucial parameters of design and reporting of preclinical studies (e.g. insufficient sample sizes, failure to implement blinding and randomization steps, etc.), phenotypic plasticity, heterogeneity of experimental models (e.g. animal strains) and laboratory-specific study conditions will emerge as dominant contributors to poor robustness of research findings.
However, in this review, we argue that this situation also provides some potential advantages: a deeper understanding of the causes of heterogeneity across experimental models may lead to the establishment of relevant biomarkers for the identification of responder populations (in both animals and humans). Thus, heterogeneity within preclinical findings could be a benefit, rather than an obstacle, for improving precision medicine, which is based on the concept that medical decisions and products need to be tailored for individual patients due to the diverseness of their responses to drug treatment.
In summary, lack of robustness due to heterogeneity across preclinical studies, normally considered a liability for biomedical research, could be transformed into an asset for advancing precision medicine.