AN animal-free testing lab in Daresbury has been awarded £100,000 to develop vegan adaptations of existing safety tests used in the cosmetic and personal care industry.

XCellR8, based at Techspace One, has already adapted a skin sensitisation test to animal product-free conditions, and the funding will help the laboratory develop and validate new safety tests.

The £100,000 of funding, 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 funds collaborations between industry, academics and SMEs to develop innovative solutions in marketable products or services that will have significant 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.

In the long term, it is hoped that success in this project could lead to the increased uptake of animal-free reagents.

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 efforts in this area."