Equine drug-testing lab gets incentives to come to Lexington

A British company got approval on Thursday for a $425,000 forgivable loan and $800,000 in tax breaks to bring a world-class horse-racing drug-testing lab to Lexington.

Fordham, England-based HFL Sport Science Inc. proposes to invest about $4.2 million, including the state incentives. The loan would pay for about half the cost of equipping the lab.

"HFL plans to establish a world-class bioanalytical laboratory delivering doping control and associated research for horse racing in Kentucky and expanding into other sport science activities," according to the Kentucky Economic Development Finance Authority's report. Those other activities would include testing of horse feed and sport supplements for banned substances, developing screening tests for fitness and nutritional health, and providing services to pharmaceutical and biotechnology sectors.

HFL is the largest sports-drug surveillance lab in the world, according to its Web site. It does drug testing for British horse and greyhound racing and works with the World Anti-Doping Agency. HFL is a subsidiary of Quotient Bioscience Group.

"HFL will encourage collaboration with the University of Kentucky as a research partner which will improve the understanding of issues related to doping control in equine, canine and human fields of sport," according to KEDFA.

HFL would lease at least 5,000 square feet of lab space, expanding up to 15,000 square feet, and bring 24 jobs initially, with a target of 48 jobs in 10 years. The jobs would have average hourly wages (including benefits) of $20.50.

Robert M. Beck, chairman of the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission, said Thursday that HFL is also in the running for the state's drug testing contract.

"I believe the establishment of the lab with HFL is conditioned upon them getting the contract for Kentucky's drug testing," Beck said. Under previous guidelines, the state said it tested about 5,000 samples a year.

Beck said that at least one other bidder for the testing contract also has proposed bringing a lab to the state.

He the drug testing contract is expected to be announced after Jan. 1. The current contract with University of Florida Racing Laboratory, which was picked earlier this year, expires in April.

No other drug-testing lab has received state economic incentives.

A task force appointed last year by Gov. Steve Beshear on the future of horse racing recommended building on Kentucky's equine research background by establishing of a top-flight drug testing lab.

Beck headed the panel that explored the issue. They estimated that it would take four or five years to complete the project, and that start-up costs would run about $5 million.

Beck said Thursday that bringing the lab here "would be financially advantageous from a state standpoint."

Len Heller, UK's vice president of commercialization and economic development, said that HFL has not signed a contract with the university's Coldstream Research Campus, in north Lexington. But he said different labs have looked at available facilities at Coldstream and at other locations around Lexington.

"Even if they don't come to Coldstream, there will still be research relationships with Gluck" Equine Research Center at UK, Heller said.

"I think this is a really great move" Heller said. "I think we really can establish even better use as the equine capital of the world when we get in the business of having a lab for others here that can drive the future of protecting animals as they race or as they show."

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