I’m Olivia Champion and during my twenty year career encompassing the World Health Organisation, Public Health England, The London School of Hygiene and Tropical medicine, The University of British Columbia and the University of Exeter I have published over 20 peer reviewed research articles, six book chapters, won funding from multiple sources and filed two patents, against a background of three career breaks for maternity. Around two years ago I hit upon a business idea that is both ethically progressive and commercially sound.
Using insect larvae as an alternative to mammals
Lots of mammals such as mice and rabbits are used for research. I’d been using insect larvae (Galleria mellonella) as an alternative and other scientists around the world were doing the same. This saves lots of mammals which is ethically more acceptable and is aligned with government policy to reduce the number of mammals used for research.
Although larvae are still animals they don’t feel pain and stress in the same way as they lack pain receptors. Also, they are cheaper than mammals.
The need for a standardised supplier
However, they had to be bought from pet shops which introduced variability into experimental results. I recognised the need for a standardised supplier of research grade insect larvae and so I co- founded BioSystems Technology, of which I am CEO, and developed TruLarv for this purpose.
TruLarv Ethical screening solutions
TruLarv are research grade Galleria mellonella which are age and weight defined and surface decontaminated. The breeding colony is genome sequenced and propagated without the use of antimicrobials or hormones.
TruLarv are low cost, high-throughput ethical screening solutions for antimicrobial efficacy testing, toxicity testing, microbial pathogenesis and ecotoxicological assays, reducing reliance on mammalian models.
Strong data correlation
TruLarv can be incubated at 37 °C and require no specialist facilities or equipment. Large numbers can be tested in parallel allowing for increased statistical power with excellent reproducibility and there is a strong correlation between data obtained from TruLarv and mammals.
Published research into potential new antibiotics
In our first year we won over fifty customers in the UK and Europe and the research carried out by our customers, in which TruLarv have been used, is now being published, including research in which potential new antibiotics have been discovered. It’s so exciting that our larvae have played a part in that.
Funding to develop genetic tools
One of the limitations of TruLarv when compared to mammalian models is the lack of both a genome sequence and transgenic larvae. Having started a genome sequencing project for TruLarv, last year we won funding from Innovate UK to develop genetic tools to engineer TruLarv.
This R&D project will enable us to develop products for the transgenic research model market, which is the fastest growing area in mouse research with an estimated market value of over $1 billion USD.
The funding from Innovate UK was critical for our company to carry out this cutting edge research and will result in both increased revenue and employee growth for BioSystems Technology.
The development of genetic tools and the subsequent new products resulting from engineered larvae will ensure that BioSystems Technology remains at the forefront of the development of alternative research models and consolidate our position as world leaders in the development of standardised insect larvae for research.
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Visit our website: www.biosystemstechnology.com