Eurofins Clinical Genetics Lab to Open in Bangalore, Providing Tests From Emory

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb) – EGL Genetic Diagnostics, a joint venture between global laboratory group Eurofins Scientific and Emory University, is establishing a Eurofins-operated clinical genetics laboratory in Bangalore, India, that will offer many of EGL's tests, including next-generation sequencing panels, exome sequencing, and noninvasive prenatal testing, to patients in India.

According to Madhuri Hegde, EGL's executive director and CSO, the Bangalore lab is the first of several Eurofins Clinical Genetic Laboratories that EGL plans to open across the world.

EGL, which was known as Emory Genetics Laboratory prior to the JV and still uses the original name on its website, is providing both technical and clinical expertise to the new ventures. "We will provide all the know-how, test interpretation, and reporting services," and in most cases, the testing will be performed in the new laboratories, said Hegde, who is in India this week to put the finishing touches on the new Bangalore lab, which plans to start accepting patient samples in the near future.

Emory and Eurofins announced their JV last June and closed the deal a few months later. Under the terms of the agreement, Eurofins acquired a 75 percent stake in EGL, paying Emory University School of Medicine approximately $40 million in cash. At the time, Atlanta-based EGL had more than 100 employees and said it expected over $15 million in revenues for 2015. Hegde said that EGL has started building a new, 62,500 square-foot facility in Atlanta and is expected to move into the new location by the end of 2016.

Eurofins CEO Gilles Martin said in a statement last year that the JV "strengthens Eurofins' growing footprint in the specialty clinical diagnostic market and provides the group a truly unique platform to leverage its renowned competence in genomic testing to better serve the global healthcare community."

Hegde told GenomeWeb this week that at the time the JV was announced, EGL was already receiving 20 percent of its samples from international clients. Eurofins, with its global network of laboratories, offered it the opportunity to further expand its international footprint, given that many countries place restrictions on the shipment of patient samples outside their borders.

"We had done everything an academic lab can do," she said, and joining forces with Eurofins would help EGL build a sales force in the US as well as a global footprint. "The EGL test menu, EGL test design, and EGL test interpretation capabilities will be now expanded throughout the world, to labs within the Eurofins network," Hegde said, noting that EGL is in discussion with several sites, including in France and the UK, and plans several other collaborations in Asia and South America.

Luxembourg-based Eurofins operates more than 225 laboratories in 39 countries in Europe, North and South America, and Asia Pacific. It provides a range of analytical services, including food, environmental, and pharmaceutical testing, but also describes itself as "one of the key emerging players in specialty clinical diagnostic testing in Europe and the USA."

Over the last few years, the company made several acquisitions in this area: Besides the JV with EML, Eurofins acquired Biomnis of France for approximately €220 million ($250 million) last year, one of the largest esoteric laboratories in Europe that focuses on specialty diagnostic testing. Hegde noted that EGL recently started collaborating with Biomnis.

In the US, Eurofins acquired Boston Heart Diagnostics for up to $200 million and molecular diagnostics firm Diatherix Laboratories for at least $50 million in 2015, and ViraCor-IBT Laboratories, an esoteric reference laboratory, for $255 million in 2014.

Traded on the NYSE Euronext Paris, Eurofins has more than 22,000 employees and had €1.95 billion ($2.23 billion) in revenues last year.  

The new Bangalore lab, called Eurofins Clinical Genetics India (ECGI), will initially offer about a quarter of EGL's test menu, including several NGS panels and complementary deletion/duplication arrays, its Medical EmExome, and Illumina's NIPT assay. In addition, it will provide a carrier screening test that has been optimized to include common mutations in different communities of the Indian population. ECGI is headed by Surendra Chikara, who joined Eurofins from Xcelris Genomics last year.

Eurofins' global IT support group, with about 500 staff members, was already located in Bangalore, so it made sense to open the clinical lab there, Hegde said. The lab is in the process of applying for various certifications and accreditations, including from India's National Accreditation Board for Testing and Calibration Laboratories (NABL), and for ISO15189. It will also seek CAP accreditation in the future, though the EGL tests it is establishing are already CAP-compliant, she said.    

While the tests will be performed in Bangalore, using EGL's technology and protocols, EGL will initially be heavily involved in the data interpretation and reporting, Hegde said. Services provided by EGL's board-certified directors will include formatting of the reports and appropriate delivery, so they comply with CLIA and CAP requirements. In parallel, EGL will train ECGI staff onsite in testing development, quality assurance and control, and data interpretation and reporting, so in the future, "we don't have to look at every single report and can be involved in complex cases and high-level interpretation," she said, adding that this will take some time and will follow a transition plan.

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