Dr Olivia Champion

Moth larvae testing firm wins grant

A spinout company, which provides moth larvae for use in scientific testing – reducing the need for tests on mice and rats – has won a £100,000 grant.

BioSystems Technologies Ltd, set up last year by two University of Exeter scientists, won the funding from government body Innovate UK.

The money will be used for a study into genetic tools to allow the creation of transgenic larvae (larvae which include DNA from other organisms – in this case a fluorescent protein derived from jellyfish).

The BioSystems larvae come from the wax moth (Galleria mellonella) and are sold under the brand name TruLarv.

“We’re delighted to win this grant because the research will pave the way for our larvae to replace even more mammals used in scientific experiments,” said Dr Olivia Champion, who co-founded BioSystems Technologies Ltd with University of Exeter colleague Professor Richard Titball.

“There are significant ethical, financial and legal reasons why businesses need to seek alternatives to testing on mammals.

“Our moth larvae are a cost-effective and ethical alternative to mammals for modelling microbial infection, for antimicrobial drug screening, to understand host responses to infection and for assessing toxicity.”

Although there is increasing evidence that data from wax moth larvae reflects that gathered from mammal testing, there is a lack of genome information and currently no genetic tools for the species.

This limits adoption of the larvae for testing, which is why BioSystems is working in partnership with the University of Exeter to resolve these issues.

Dr Champion said she hoped this could lead to further growth for BioSystems, which already employs four people and will recruit a fifth worker thanks to the new grant.

Date: 27 July 2017