I agree with crankypage and peguinchris, the headline grabs your attention while being shamefully misleading. Stating that "Lab mistakes are wasting millions in research funding" is like saying "Driving errors waste billions in gasoline." Or "Unforced tennis errors cost pros millions in prize money." All statements are almost meaningless. Anyone who has worked in a lab knows that mistakes (like pipeting mistakes) are absolutely pervasive and a necessary part of the enterprise.
The article discusses two scientific 'mistakes': (1) using the 'wrong' cell lines and (2) cross contamination.
Point (1) is not news - it has been known since at least the late 90's with the advent of gene microarrays showing huge differences in gene expression between primary cancer cells and cultured cell lines. However, thoughtful scientists should have always been aware that cultured cell lines are only models for cancer. This brings us to the theory of valid disease models which is not some trivial issue that can be resolved by using 100 or 1000 cell lines instead of 4. (Note also that using larger numbers of cell lines decreases statistical power and increases heterogeneity). Disease model validity is certainly not some minor issue related to mere waste of research funding but a serious and profound problem in all of biomedical science. Ms Koerth-Baker's headline and treatment of this issue does not give this scientific meta-issue its due, particularly as it is mixed in with point 2.
Point (2) is that scientists make pipeting errors, similar to a headline reading "Sky is blue." However, what is shameful to cancer biology is that it sounds like few people are verifying their cell lines. In the article, no evidence is given to support this (e.g. % of papers reporting cell line genotyping, or % of post hoc genotyping showing contamination). If this is a bigger issue than previously known, and no one in cancer biology was enforcing cell identity verification then this is a serious issue. However, in my view the story is not "wasting millions in research funding" but that this is a problem of heretofore unappreciated scale that needs to be fixed.
Rather than targeting cancer scientists who (when funding levels allow them to work) are generally trying pretty hard to overcome their own limitations to figure out how things work, how about saving your headlines about 'wasting millions' for truly wasteful industries like Wall Street and the MIC?