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China's CapitalBio on Track to Open New Consumer, Clinical Genetics Testing Facility

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – Chinese life science company CapitalBio will solidify its efforts to become a major laboratory testing player in the country's clinical and consumer genetics markets by opening a new facility next year.

Keith Mitchelson, the company's vice president of international marketing and business development, said that the Beijing-based firm will open a new campus in Chengdu by the beginning of 2014. The new, 30,000-square-meter site will feature laboratories dedicated to clinical and consumer genetic testing, a manufacturing facility, and a biomedical R&D hub, he said.

Mitchelson spoke with GenomeWeb Daily News' sister publication BioArray News during a visit to CapitalBio's headquarters in Beijing recently. He said that the company currently employs 750, most of whom are based at two sites in Beijing. CapitalBio has maintained a 1,500-square meter medical laboratory in Chengdu since 2010, from which it offers more than 600 different assays.

While CapitalBio was founded as an array provider a dozen years ago, the technologies at its disposal has expanded in recent years as it looked to serve the burgeoning clinical market. According to the company, more than 10,000 tests — which range from immunoassays to direct-to-consumer tests — are performed per month, and the company said earlier this year that 2011 revenue from its lab was greater than RMB 10 Million ($1.6 million).

The new laboratory in comparison will have three times the capacity and the range of analytical tests offered will increase, with an emphasis on molecular diagnostic applications, according to the firm. Its vision is to become the "largest independent medical laboratory in Sichuan province."

In addition to the new 10,000 square-meter laboratory testing facility, the manufacturing facility will be 15,000 square meters, and the industrial R&D hub will be about 5,000 square meters Mitchelson said.

According to Mitchelson, location is part of CapitalBio's rationale for locating its site in Chengdu, a city that is home to 10 million people that is located in southwestern China and is the capital of Sichuan province, which borders Tibet. He noted that Chongquing, another major city, is about 250 km from Chengdu.

"In that whole area, there are about 35 million people, so there is a huge population, and many, many hospitals."

He also said that the move to Chengdu is part of a larger process of decentralization, which is encouraged by the Chinese government.

"Everybody came to Beijing and Shanghai as China was opening up, all the multinational companies and Chinese companies too, because the big business action was happening there, but now the Chinese government wants development outside, and Chengdu wants development," said Mitchelson.

"Also the cost of running a lab is very different in Chengdu compared to Beijing or Shanghai," he added. "And it's a well-connected international city now, with many international connections."

CapitalBio isn't the only life science firm positioning itself to capture a piece of the growing Chinese clinical market. Shanghai Biochip, another firm that started out as an array vendor, will early next year begin accepting samples for various clinical tests via a subsidiary called Shanghai Biomedical Laboratory.

Huasheng Xiao, SBC's vice president, said last month that he envisions the Shanghai-based lab becoming a third-party provider of clinical testing services in China, akin to Laboratory Corporation of America or Quest Diagnostics in the US.

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