Scientists based in Cardiff that revolutionised the drug and alcohol abuse testing techniques reach 21st year milestone
Scientists based in Cardiff are celebrating the 21st anniversary of their pioneering technique for detecting drug and alcohol use.
Dr Lolita Tsanaclis and John Wicks began testing human hair in 1993 and quickly established an international reputation as leaders in the field.
They set up TrichoTech in 1997 before selling it 10 years later to the drug and alcohol testing business Concateno – now Alere Toxicology.
The pair went on to establish and run Cansford Laboratories at the specialist biotech and medtech incubation facility Cardiff Medicentre.
Dr Tsanaclis said: “We have used our acquired experience to develop novel ways of processing samples and improve the technology of hair testing.
“Through Cansford we now deliver accurate analyses in a much shorter timescale, passing the costs savings on to our clients.”
Cansford’s testing programmes are used by family courts, employers, clinics, schools and government bodies to identify drug and alcohol problems in individuals and to establish patterns of use.
Human hair delivers an accurate picture of the substances in a person’s body.
Cansford is able to tell what that substance is and when it was taken, over a period of time of up to one year.
The results play a critical part in the decision-making process about a person’s integrity, suitability and reliability in a range of situations, from employment to child welfare.
Dr Tsanaclis said: “If a decision has to be made about where a child should live, for example, then their parents’ use of drugs or alcohol could affect the outcome.
“We offer a simple, reliable and non-invasive test to reveal the true facts.
“It helps ensure that the right decisions can be made.”
When the scientists started out they knew that the UK government and the family court service wanted to reduce costs and improve the delivery of drug-use assessments like the ones Cansford offers.
Cansford’s innovation enables results to be delivered within three days of the hair sample arriving at its laboratory.
Dr Tsanaclis said: “When we started TrichoTech our target timeframe was 10 working days which is still pretty fast even by today’s standards – many of our competitors have difficulty maintaining that.
“The fact that we’re now able to shave a week off the industry standard timeframe really does set us apart; our clients value our speed and accuracy.”
Since Cansford opened its laboratory in Brazil in 2011 the business has also acquired a strong client base in South America and beyond.
The business says that it has been able to share its technology with its sister company Chromatox in Sao Paulo, which is the first commercial company to deliver hair analysis for drugs from within Brazil.
Cansford now has its sights set on establishing six laboratories at strategic locations around the world.
These will enable the business to supply existing and new clients with the specialist testing service within its three-day timeframe.
The company has firm plans to remain Welsh-headquartered and based at Cardiff Medicentre.
The business incubator, which is a joint venture between the Welsh Government, Cardiff Council, Cardiff University and Cardiff and Vale University Health Board, is home to 23 other life sciences companies and it offers an environment which Cansford says has enabled the business to grow quickly and strategically.
“We have established our expertise on an international level and are able to reach a very wide audience thanks to the facilities and support on offer at Cardiff Medicentre, ” said Dr Tsanaclis. “The next five years will see Cansford venturing into new geographical territorities.”