This year, XCellR8 became a teenager, as it celebrated it’s 13th year in business. In this blog Dr Carol Treasure reflects on that time and how her commitment to a world free from animal testing has driven positive change.
In the beginning
One of the things I feel most proud of is our commitment to truly animal-free testing since Day 1. We founded the company in 2008 and started talking publicly about replacing not only animals but animal components too, a long time before this became a fashionable topic. There are many words to describe the reactions we received. A few examples: left-field, unnecessary, whacky, idealistic, even impossible! I remember the first few times I introduced the idea into my presentations at conferences, I sensed little support for an animal product free approach, and those who saw the potential advantages viewed it as unrealistic. It made me feel a little uncomfortable – everyone wants their ideas to be supported!
Unwavering commitment to better science
But we stuck to our approach. We weren’t prepared to offer in vitro tests that required the sacrifice of animals using products such as rat liver extracts or rat tail collagen – such methods should not be described as “non-animal” tests and we wanted to highlight such an important issue. Similarly, the almost ubiquitous use of foetal bovine serum (FBS) for cell culture was being largely overlooked. The ongoing use of animal derived products for in vitro testing needed to be challenged not only for ethical reasons but for scientific advancement too: we needed human-relevant test systems, free from the variation introduced when using components from other species.
Non-animal testing gains momentum
Now, in 2021, the topic of animal product free and chemically defined in vitro testing is becoming incredibly popular and is supported by funding and thought leadership from some of the world’s largest corporations and NGOs. I’m over the moon to see this cause gaining such momentum and together the scientific community can accelerate solutions to these challenges to truly modernise the conditions we are using for cell-based testing.
If I could offer any advice on this topic to the Carol of 13 years ago, it would be “You’re on the right track, keep challenging the status quo, have confidence and it’s OK to shout louder!”
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