Stepping up next in our Showcase series is Tissue Solutions, a Queens Award winning business for the medical research sector. Commanded by CEO Morag McFarlane, this medical start-up provides top scientists with the necessary human tissue samples to test and produce new drugs and therapies right across the industry.
Sounds a bit morbid, what does this entail exactly?
Tissue solutions is a virtual international biobank and tissue acquisition group that helps researchers ethically source the biological materials that they need for their work, and on the other side of things, helps biobanks, cancer banks, and blood banks, to get their precious samples out to the researchers that need it most. That can be anything from fresh tumour samples, used for work on immune-modulation, to skin samples for use in dermatological testing of products. The work of Tissue Solutions spans target identification and validation, through screening and testing, right up until the stage before pre-clinical trials. Anything that is ethical and available, Tissue Solutions can do. “The ethics of collecting tissue and using tissue is different in every country, and we have to ensure that the tissue is collected following those specific rules […]” explains Morag McFarlane, CEO of Tissue Solutions. “Ethics consent underpins everything that we do.”
Nice, but what’s wrong with animal testing again?
Well, a lot, obviously. Animal disease models are both an ethical problem and one of efficacy. “There is a massive shift away from animal models [of testing],” Morag observes. In such models, drugs are not tested on human strains of diseases until much later in the development cycle, and as a result this actually leads to unreliable testing and unexpected roadblocks in the later stages of screening. This can set things back for investors or in worse cases even leave a potential treatment dead in the water.
But is Tissue Solutions just a middleman, can organisations do the work themselves if they want to?
Yes, and no. Firstly, the company can help as much or as little as customers like. Customers tend to find themselves surprised by the workload if they attempt to go for it unaided. Secondly, as an international virtual biobank, the company is able to source any and all ethically available materials through its global network of industry specialists and medical professionals. It’s what the people at Tissue Solutions do, and they’re very good at it. This means that the company can meet stringent specifications and requirements and handle exceptional turn-around times. With an excellent track record and network for distributors, the company can take care of the logistics of transport and complicated processing issues. This leaves its partners free to focus on what they are really good at, whether that is harvesting post-surgery surplus or getting on with crucial research.
Tissue Solutions is also building its own volunteer database in the UK. The company has ethics here for the collection of a number of samples. The focus is on research related to a variety of illnesses and disorders, such as acne, psoriasis, eczema, as well as cancer and lupus. A volunteer can sign up through the company’s website in order to aid research that is close to their own heart.
How does the future look for Tissue Solutions?
Pretty good, it seems. Having taken on no external investment to date, the company was bootstrapped through the early stages and has been grown organically for the past few years through customer revenue. In another growth stage, Tissue Solutions has moved to larger offices in the West of Scotland Science Park to accommodate its 17 strong team. As the only UK-owned human tissue acquisition group, it has even received attention from the Medicines Discovery Catapult, and Tissue Solutions has stepped up to the plate in order to locate domestic sites which can remedy the problem and also bring money back into the UK.
– Mark Swift