Toronto genetics testing company selects Grand Rapids' West Side location for first laboratory

Toronto, Ontario-based Arctic DX has selected Grand Rapids' American Seating Park on the city's west side as the site of its first genetics testing laboratory, Arctic Laboratories. The $1.9 million facility is under construction at 801 Broadway NW and will process its first tests for genetic age-related macular degeneration this September.

In 2009, the company released its Macula Risk test to identify patients who have inherited the genes that cause macular degeneration, an eye disease that, left undiagnosed and untreated, causes blindness. Arctic DX has been using outside genetics laboratories to process the test results. The 7,500-square-foot facility is the first testing laboratory owned and operated by the company.

"Twenty percent of patients with macular degeneration are at risk of progression to blindness," says CFO/COO Jim Pelot. "Macular degeneration starts in patients around age 50 to 60 and is asymptomatic, so the patient doesn't know it's there until it's discovered by their eye doctor. The purpose of Macula Risk is to catch the disease early enough to make sure the patient doesn't lose their vision."

Two-thirds of the new facility is dedicated lab space that includes a separated ventilated lab that will keep the genetic testing area free of airborne DNA, says Pelot. The rest of the space will be staff offices and meeting rooms.

"We sat down with three different short-listed jurisdictions to discuss how to work with the city and the state for us to settle there, and decided on Grand Rapids," Pelot says. "Other considerations were the pool of [potential employees] who are familiar with molecular genetics, we wanted the laboratory to be easy to get to, and we have a number of Michigan doctors who are customers."

The Michigan Economic Development Corporation recently awarded Arctic DX a $220,000 Business Development Program incentive to build the laboratory in Grand Rapids.

The laboratory will create 28 jobs in the area. See the related story New Grand Rapids genetics testing lab seeks workers for research, office positions.

For more information on the Macula Risk test, click here.

Source: Jim Pelot, Arctic DX
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor
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