In this issue of the Chemical Industry Journal, we speak to Dr Carol Treasure, co-founder and CEO of XCellR8 which provides animal-free safety and efficacy tests. We learn how testing techniques that were once deemed alternative have now gained widespread acceptance.

A vision ahead of their time

“Bushra Sim and I set up the business ten years ago – when non-animal testing was so new that it wasn’t widely understood – but we were determined to accelerate the acceptance of 100% animal-free testing.

“We were committed to achieving this by concentrating on the scientific element – providing tests that were more scientifically advanced and robust than those that were available. Having witnessed animal testing in laboratories earlier in my career – I was convinced that there had to be a better way,” explains Carol.

International recognition

XCellR8 swiftly made a mark in the cosmetic and broader chemical industry providing 100% animal-free safety testing, which was recognised by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA). XCellR8 also gained Good Laboratory Practice (GLP) accreditation – meeting the exacting standards required.

“The ban on animal testing in the cosmetic industry in Europe from 2013, brought our work to a wider audience and placed us ahead of the curve in offering in vitro testing,” explains Carol. “As many cosmetic ingredient manufacturers are divisions of larger chemical companies, our work soon snowballed, as clients wanted the reassurance that came with knowing we met the requirements of the highly regulated cosmetics industry.”

Not only are XCellR8 leading the field in conducting non-animal testing – but their lab is believed to be the only one globally that guarantees that no products will be used in their processes that are derived from animals or that have been tested on animals at any point. As a privately owned company, they are wholly independent and are not associated with any organisations that test on animals.

World-leading innovation

XCellR8 is a rare example of a company that can genuinely lay claim to being world-leading for not only do they carry out animal-free in vitro tests – but the team has designed many of these tests too.

Reworking existing published methods, the team eradicate any animal components, replacing them with fully human or synthetic alternatives, then gain validation for them under strict international criteria – paving the way for the rest of the industry.

Currently, XCellR8 is developing a human cell-based replacement for the LD50 acute toxicity test, in partnership with Lush and FRAME (Fund for the Replacement of Animals in Medical Experiments), thanks to a grant from Innovate UK (Technology Strategy Board).

Industry-leading and evidence-based

“Many animal tests used over the years were never validated,” explains Carol, “there was nothing to benchmark them against, it simply became commonplace to use them. While the tests we’ve developed have been rigorously tested, meeting strict international validation requirements at multiple test labs, so customers have confidence in them.”

Far from offering an ‘alternative’, XCellR8 provides testing that is more scientifically advanced than traditional options, as well as being ethically sound and completely animal-free. Such is the industry-leading nature of their work that the company has been supported by principle funding bodies including the European Horizon 2020 programme, as well as Innovate UK.

XCellR8 was awarded the Lush Prize for Training in 2013, in recognition of the hundreds of scientists they’ve trained in animal-free testing techniques, shortly after which, they began modifying and developing cell culture tests for Lush. Earlier this year, XCellR8 celebrated completing 1000 safety tests for Lush, meaning dozens of cosmetic products have proven safety data without animals being harmed.

Going the extra mile

During our discussion, it becomes clear that the XCellR8 team provide far more than the tests commissioned – offering advice and support to their clients that goes far beyond this remit – a particular help to SMEs and start-ups that are attempting to get off the ground.

“Adding value to the testing process for our clients is an integral part of what we do. Our team go above and beyond conducting and delivering test results – assisting clients in interpreting those results and understanding the implications of them for their business,” explains Carol.

“We frequently provide strategic direction for businesses, enhance their knowledge of the tests available, what can be achieved with them, how and where they best fit into their processes and identify any gaps in those processes. We often provide in-house training for our clients and assist them in understanding emerging methodologies.”

A timely and efficient service

“We strive to exceed our customers’ expectations in all that we do – delivering excellence -whilst also providing services that are timely and efficient. Not only are our tests of the highest standards, but our customers are constantly surprised at how quickly we turn them around.

“Many companies are still working towards their REACH registrations and we are assisting many new clients as our quick turnaround time is helpful to them. We have a strong and loyal customer-base because we deliver on time.”

Such is their success that XCellR8 now provide services to companies around the globe, across the broad spectrum of the chemical industries and beyond, from SMEs to multinational organisations.

Their tests have been utilised in the agro-chemical, aerospace and automotive industries, in numerous cosmetic and personal care products, as well as many household products we use daily.

In order to meet the increasing demand for their services, XCellR8 has just moved into new, larger premises in Daresbury, Cheshire – enabling them to take on more employees and increase capacity – bringing their services to more clients.

Looking to the future

“We are always looking to the future and are interested in hearing prospective clients’ wish lists of the tests they require – we’ve frequently designed, and gained approval for new in vitro tests, such as those for skin sensitisation, and our state-of-the-art facilities are enabling us to invest more time and resources into R & D work.

“There has been a massive turnaround in the last five years and what was once alternative are now the default requirement of many regulations, there is an ever-increasing demand for in vitro tests and we’re excited about new technologies, such as 3D printed skin models and organ-on-a-chip which will continue to improve the safety of products for humans.”