A SKINCARE testing company near York has doubled the size of its operation in a move which will further strengthen the region's reputation as a leading bioscience hub.

Labskin UK has increased its lab and office space at York Biotech Campus, Sand Hutton, while the team has grown from eight at the start of 2020 to 23, with plans to have 30 employees by the end of 2021.

The expansion follows a rise in demand for Labskin's artificial human-like skin product.

Labskin specialises in commercially-available, lab-grown, full thickness human skin model that naturally mimics the skin's microbiome, to test the impact of cosmetic and skin care products.

The skin product is a viable alternative to human volunteer studies, which haven’t been able to take place because of the pandemic, and has been used to test the effectiveness of products such as hand sanitiser on protecting against the coronavirus.

Labskin moved to York Biotech Campus in 2014. Its latest expansion is its biggest yet, more than doubling its space to nearly 9,000 sq. ft, with five new laboratories, including a dedicated Labskin production suite and office space.

The additional labs will enable Labskin to expand its services to include polymerase chain reaction (PCR) and gene sequencing.

This is a completely new service used to identify a skin type and how different products react to it, and it’s expected to attract business from multi-national clients as well as direct from consumers.

Labskin will also be introducing services from Modern Water, a world-leading water monitoring company based in the US, owned by Labskin’s parent company (Integumen PLC).

The expansion means the company can now produce reagents from Modern Water - used in specialised monitoring of toxicity in water and soil - for the first time in the UK.

York Biotech Campus worked closely with Labskin on the expansion plans, with completion taking place in February 2021.

Nicola Kingswell, head of laboratories at Labskin, said: “It’s been an extremely busy year for us at Labskin.

"Not only have we expanded our services and continued to work with some of the biggest names in skin and personal care such as Unilever, but our skin has helped in the fight against Covid-19 and has been used to test the effectiveness of products such as hand sanitiser on protecting against the virus.

"We’re also experiencing a rise in demand for new Labskin models that can be used for research into how products react with different ethnicities.

“Market demand, new services and with a drive to continue to innovate, we naturally needed more space. The team at York Biotech Campus has always supported us through each phase of our growth and been extremely accommodating and this time was no different.

"They carried out a full refurbishment and made sure our new labs and offices worked for us, both now and for the future as we continue to grow.”

Liz Cashon, innovation campus manager at York Biotech Campus, added: “It’s been a pleasure supporting Labskin since they joined us at the campus seven years ago. They are an organisation driving Yorkshire’s bioscience sector forwards, with its cutting-edge research continuing to generate interest from businesses across the globe.

“It was vital when creating plans for its new labs that the different services Labskin offer were self-contained. For example, the production of Labskin must stay separate from the microbiome microbiology, as contamination could jeopardise months of work.

"We managed to pull together a solution that works perfectly for the team and we look forward to continuing to help facilitate innovation for both Labskin and our other tenants here onsite.”