HFL Sport Science Laboratory Opens in KY

Lab will begin drug testing for all Kentucky racetracks Feb. 1.

Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear Dec. 14 joined community leaders and executives of HFL Sport Science to celebrate the grand opening of the company’s new laboratory in Lexington. 

Located at 1745 Alysheba Way, the facility will provide drug surveillance, doping control and research to equine and other sports industries. The lab, which represents more than a $4 million investment, will create 48 new jobs, including 25 high-tech positions, paying an average salary of more than $47,000, exclusive of benefits.

“HFL is establishing a world-class bioanalytical laboratory to deliver doping control and associated research for horseracing in Kentucky and nationwide,” said Gov. Beshear, who thanked Dr. David Hall, CEO of HFL Sport Science in the United Kingdom and HFL Sport Science in Kentucky for having confidence in the Bluegrass State to spearhead such a facility. “(HFL Sport Science’s) testing services for various sport science activities, such as checking horse feed and sport supplements for banned substances, will help ensure the equine industry remains healthy, while also helping preserve and create high-paying, high-tech jobs for Kentucky residents.”

The Kentucky Economic Development Finance Authority preliminarily approved HFL for a forgivable loan up to $425,000 through the Cabinet for Economic Development’s High-Tech Investment Pool, a program used to support technology-based and research-intensive companies and projects. The high-tech pool funds are being used by HFL to purchase lab equipment and help underwrite costs for lab up-fit of the Lexington facility.

KEDFA also gave preliminary approval for tax incentive benefits to HFL up to $800,000 through the Kentucky Business Investment program. The performance-based incentive allows a company to keep a portion of its investments over a 10-year period through corporate income tax credits and wage assessments by meeting job and investment targets.

In March 2010, the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission selected HFL to provide drug testing for Kentucky race tracks. The lab will begin processing samples in February 2011.  In addition to developing laboratory screening tests for fitness and nutritional health, HFL plans to provide services to the pharmaceutical and biotechnology sectors. The company also anticipates research collaborations with the University of Kentucky, which will improve the basic understanding of issues relating to doping control in equine, canine, and human sports.

“We at HFL are truly delighted to be partnering with the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission in creating a world class racing chemistry laboratory in Lexington,” said Hall, noting that the foundation of the new lab was the most significant thing that had happened in the development of HFL in the last 50 years. “We anticipate that our partnership and research-led approach will quickly bring benefits to racing in Kentucky, and are eager to investigate the benefits of forging the transatlantic link with racing in the United Kingdom. It must be noted that the support that we have received from the Cabinet for Economic Development, Commerce Lexington, and the wider community has been tremendous, making the start up in Lexington a remarkably smooth process.”

Lisa Underwood, executive director of the KHRC, said HFL will start doing all drug testing for Kentucky racetracks Feb. 1, 2011.

“They have the best equipment in the world, they have a fabulous team, and we’re delighted to have Rick Sams as the lab director--he is the former program director of the Florida Racing Laboratory, and he’s internationally respected,” said Underwood. “It’s wonderful to have him here so we can have face-to-face meetings.”

Underwood said Kentucky’s drug samples will now be couriered directly to the Lexington office, instead of having to be shipped to and from a Florida laboratory to be tested. This will provide a quicker turnaround, cutting down the wait for results by one or two days. The lab has additionally set up procedures for an after-hours drop off for samples.

“I have wanted to have a lab here since I started (in my position) five years ago,” said Underwood, adding that she began a dialogue with HFL around 18 months ago about plans for a Kentucky lab. After a recommendation for a lab in Kentucky had come up during the governor’s task force on the future of horse racing, Underwood met a HFL representative at an Association of Racing Commissioners International meeting, and things began falling into place. 

“We had been brainstorming about how to attract someone to here to head a lab, and then they came to us, and they have a great reputation,” said Underwood. "Mary Scollay (equine medical director for the KHRC) went over and toured the lab in Newmarket, and then we started negotiations and went from there.

“I think it’s a great thing for Kentucky and the horse industry to promote integrity and safety. I have total confidence that (HFL) is going to do an excellent job.”

HFL’s parent company, HFL Sport Science Ltd, is based in Fordham, near Cambridge, in the United Kingdom, and has more than 40 years of continuous experience in the science of sports doping control.  This includes experience testing within the framework of the World Anti-Doping Agency and testing human and animal food supplements for substances prohibited in sports. The company also delivers both operational screening services and innovative research into prohibited substance detection.

Hall said the British horse racing industry spends more on research than any racing authority in the world. His goals for the future with the Lexington-based HFL are to “increase quality standards and invest heavily in instrumentation.” Eventually, he hopes to work with pharmaceutical companies to study drugs that may become subjects of abuse several years down the road, something HFL has being doing in the United Kingdom for the last decade.

“It’s a seven or eight-year heads up to see what’s coming down the pipeline,” he explained. “So we saw early on and were able re-equip the skills of the lab in the UK with biological skills instead of just chemistry skills, and we were more ready (to detect illegal substances) than anyone else in the racing community.”

For more information on HFL, visit www.quotientbioresearch.com