By Norman Gidney
Times Colonist, Victoria
March 14, 2003

MDS Metro Labs is moving to the Vancouver Island Tech Park and will spend about $2 million on a new lab analysis facility.

It's the biggest client yet for the provincial government's $11-million project for high-tech businesses in Saanich, which has struggled to find tenants.

The University of Victoria's 20-year-old cell protein chemistry research lab will also move in June from the UVic campus to new space at the park.

MDS chairman Dr. Don Rix said the two new tenants at the Tech Park together "create one of the first life science clusters in Victoria."

The deal with MDS "puts us over the hump" at 55 per cent occupancy, said VITP marketing manager Dale Gann.

"Over the last two years, this site has grown into a community," said Saanich MLA Susan Brice, referring to the Tech Park's present collection of companies who write software, do scientific acoustic research, develop a high-tech artificial ear and search for treatments for rare diseases.

MDS is taking 17,000 square feet in the campus-like Tech Park, located in the former Glendale hospital among open fields and forest.

MDS now has three separate labs in the Victoria area where 150 staff analyse four to five million blood, urine and other samples annually.

Their relocation to the Tech Park will push total employment there to 450 people, and the direct economic impact of the centre to $21 million a year.

The nine MDS sample collection offices around the region will not be affected, and the company will not open one at its new location, said president Bob Breen.

The move "will make our operation more efficient," he said. Aside from routine test analysis, MDS also expects to work closely with the proteomics centre on research into new genetic-based tests.

It has the province's only molecular biology lab in Burnaby and he thought its scientists will travel back and forth often to work with the UVic scientists.

The science of proteomics should be able to help develop new ways that are better at detecting disease, Breen said.

Target date for the MDS move is December, Breen said. The lab company has just bare concrete walls now and must create and equip the new space.

Government Services Minister Sandy Santori, who is responsible for B.C. Buildings Corp., the developer and owner of the Tech Park, said there are no plans at the moment to sell the centre to the private sector.

"It's a great facility." UVic will have about 3,500 square feet there, space for nine full-time and two-part time staff and researchers, which is expected to double in number soon.

It will be known as the UVic-Genome Proteomics Centre, for its partnership with Genome B.C., the funding agency for large-scale genome research. It will be a "high-quality, world-class initiative, said UVic president David Turpin.