The issue of cancer researchers accidentally using the wrong cell lines in their work has become increasingly problematic, and one of the biggest reasons is that researchers themselves don't seem too keen on developing new cells lines free of these problems. But the Chordoma Foundation may have a solution, says The Wall Street Journal's Amy Dockser Marcus — cash. The foundation's co-founder, Josh Sommer, himself a chordoma survivor, experienced the problem of mislabeled cell lines while an undergraduate at Duke. "During the course of the research, the scientists became suspicious that some of the cell lines might not be chordoma at all," Marcus says. "Testing confirmed their hunch: Only two of the six they tested was actually chordoma. (One of the misidentified cell lines wasn't even human; it turned out to be from a mouse.)" After going through and examining their cell lines, the researchers were left with two valid chordoma cell lines — not diverse enough to do thorough research with.
In 2010, the foundation launched a contest, offering $10,000 to any researcher who could help develop more reliable chordoma cell lines. "And now, there's a winner: Beate Rinner at the Medical University of Graz, Austria is getting the $10,000 prize," Marcus says. The foundation plans to keep paying out for validated cell lines. The prize, Sommer tells Marcus, is an "incentive."