XCellR8 Wins £100K Funding in 2020 CRACK IT Challenges Competition

Prize will help laboratory adapt existing OECD Test Guidelines to animal-product-free conditions

UK based animal-free testing lab XCellR8 has been awarded £100K of funding to carry out a six-month proof-of-concept study to develop in vitro tests free from animal-derived reagents. The prize, sponsored by Unilever and AstraZeneca and co-funded by Unilever, is part of the first phase of the 2020 CRACK IT Challenges competition.

CRACK IT is run by NC3Rs and is a challenge-led competition that funds collaborations between industry, academics and SMEs to develop innovative solutions into marketable products or services that will have significant 3Rs (Replacement, Reduction and Refinement) impact across the bioscience sector.

XCellR8’s winning submission focuses on the challenge to remove animal-derived products such as Foetal Bovine Serum from in vitro tests to improve human relevance and reproducibility, and reduce the use of animals. In the long term, it is hoped that success in this project could lead to the increased uptake of animal-free reagents, and to the acceptance of new protocols in the OECD TGs that are free from animal components.

XCellR8 have a successful track record in this area, having already adapted the established OECD TG 442D KeratinoSens™ skin sensitisation test to animal-product-free conditions, which led to the subsequent revision of the Test Guideline to include the new method. The new funding will help the laboratory develop and validate new safety tests for OECD TG 487 (the Micronucleus Test for genotoxicity) and OECD TG 455 (transactivation in vitro assays for estrogen receptor agonists and antagonists, measuring the endocrine disrupting potential of chemicals).

Commenting on the award, XCellR8 Founder and CEO Dr Carol Treasure said, “The increased availability of in vitro testing services has already saved the lives of countless animals and helped to improve the accuracy and reliability of tests that humans rely on to be sure that products are safe. However, the ongoing use of animal components in most of these tests compromises their human relevance and can affect the reproducibility of results – a factor that has been largely overlooked until recently. As consumer demand for vegan products, sustainable supply chains and robust product safety grows, we’re delighted to see Unilever and AstraZeneca sponsoring work to address this gap in the science, and equally delighted to have secured the funding to expand our R&D efforts in this area.”