Dr Carol Treasure

Founder and Managing Director
XCellR8
Meet Dr Carol Treasure, founder and Managing Director of XCellR8 which offers innovative animal-free safety* and efficacy tests to cosmetic companies and ingredient manufacturers. Safety tests include areas such as skin sensitisation and eye irritation, whilst methods are developed to support claims including mildness, anti-oxidant and anti-ageing properties.
What is your job title and what are the main characteristics of your day-to-day work?

As the Founder and Managing Director of a testing laboratory, my days span both scientific and commercial aspects of the business, where I juggle many roles. On a typical day, I might be responding to information requests about non-animal safety testing, and how these can meet regulatory requirements; advising clients on how in vitro** methods can provide valuable data for cosmetic claim support; or applying for grant funding for research and development (R&D) projects to develop new tests.

I also spend time at conferences and seminars, both here in the UK and overseas, meeting other scientists in the community, delivering keynote speeches and keeping an eye on industry trends. Within the business, I get involved with a variety of work such as project scheduling and development activities for our fantastic team. And of course, like any business owner, I keep a close eye on the finances to make sure everything continues to run smoothly!

Do you use any area of science in your current job?
Yes, my degree from Sheffield University is in Physiology and Pharmacology. This gives me a good level of understanding of how cosmetics and their ingredients interact with the body, which is important in my role. My PhD from the University of Nottingham is based on skin cell biology, and this knowledge helps me zoom in on how cells in the skin react to chemicals, which is the foundation of what we do within the company. I also use a wider understanding of biology to match existing safety and efficacy tests to our clients’ needs and to communicate clearly about how the tests work, as well as to develop ideas for brand new tests, allowing us to make an ongoing contribution to the development of scientifically and ethically advanced alternatives to animal testing.
What other department/professions do you work with?

We’re a small but talented team so I work with Study Directors, Laboratory Scientists and Technicians and our Quality Assurance team on the scientific side. In my commercial role, I work with specialists in finance, human resources and marketing.

When it comes to supporting clients, their roles vary from scientific positions such as beauty technologists or new product development claims scientists, to regulatory officers and company founders. They are based in the cosmetics industry but also across a wide range of other chemical sectors.

The 'University of Life' has proved to be invaluable!
How would you summarise your career path so far?

It started with a childhood interest in biology, nurtured by long walks in the countryside with my Dad. An early job as a technician, analysing samples by High Performance Liquid Chromatography (HPLC), was the start of my scientific career and after backpacking around the world, which was an education in itself, I went to Sheffield to do my degree in Physiology & Pharmacology. It was there that I first witnessed animal testing and resolved that there had to be a better way, not just ethically, but scientifically, too.

This has been the thread throughout my career since, leading me to do a PhD at FRAME (Fund for the Replacement of Animals in Medical Experiments) at the University of Nottingham, followed by seven years working for a company in the USA. I came back home to set up and run the company’s European operation in 2003, providing human cell culture systems to scientists, helping them to adopt non-animal technologies in their research and development.

This proved to be the tipping point that allowed me to use my scientific knowledge in a commercial context. I’ve never been interested in blue sky research, instead feeling that I want to apply my scientific skills where they can directly enhance lives, and ultimately replace animal testing.

In 2008 I co-founded XCellR8 and moved from selling products to services and have continued to enjoy the balance of science and industry ever since.

What are the best things about your job?

I love having the chance to meet clients in a wide variety of industries and learn how science is applied in their companies. I may be talking one day about the irritation potential of a shampoo or shower gel, or discussing how to make an anti-oxidant claim for a facial moisturiser the next. I like having the opportunity to share the expertise of the team and make a positive contribution to our vibrant cosmetics industry.

The importance of non-animal testing is not just about the ethical aspects. It provides a much more up-to-date, sophisticated approach to cosmetic testing compared with traditional animal tests. I love knowing that we are contributing to the development of better science and helping to eradicate animal testing, both at the same time. And, working with the cosmetics industry, I get an insight into upcoming exciting trends and amazing new products in the pipeline!

Are there any specific skills essential to the job you do?

I thrive on variety, but that does mean having an ability to juggle many projects at the same time is essential. I’ve also had to become expert in finance, HR, operations, sales and marketing!

Perhaps more importantly is having the right mindset though. For us to have achieved the regulatory accreditations we have, without using animal testing, required an unwillingness to accept the status quo and to always think progressively.

Within the scientific community, I also feel that clear communication is undervalued. It’s not enough to be able to present your scientific project if you can’t translate what the results mean in a commercial context or bring it to life for non-scientists. I like to think that I can talk the business language of my clients, whilst remaining credible scientifically.

What qualifications are needed to do your job? Which of your qualifications do you find useful in your job?
My degree in Physiology and Pharmacology and PhD in Cell Biology stood me in good stead, and gave me valuable experience. But I’d argue that getting out into the commercial world away from academia was just as useful and helped me learn practical skills that cover a wide range of useful applications.
Is there anything you wished you’d studied when younger that would be useful now?

For me, business studies would have been helpful. As I mentioned earlier, I’ve had to become an expert in all the functions of business – from developing HR policies for the team to getting my head round the dark arts of Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) for our website. I’ve had to learn all this on the job, rather than through formal training. Although, luckily for me, this provides an exciting and diverse job which I am very passionate about, and the “University of Life” has proved to be invaluable! When I was a young scientist, I didn’t see how training in business could help me. These days, a lot of scientists are starting their own exciting business ventures, and having commercial skills and awareness from the outset would be a real asset.

I also sometimes wish that I could have been more inspired by studying chemistry – at the time it seemed like such an academic exercise, and if I had understood more about the exciting applications in industries such as cosmetics, I may have been more enthusiastic to study it in more detail.

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* Animal testing of cosmetic products and their ingredients are banned in the UK and Europe. For more information see www.thefactsabout.co.uk/animal-testing/content/154

** The technique of performing experiments in a controlled environment outside of a living organism, e.g. in a test tube.