Quest Diagnostics to build $16 million medical lab

Published: Tuesday, October 27, 2009 7:00 am By: Steve Lackmeyer

The Oklahoman

Quest Diagnostics is a $7 billion company with laboratories across the country. But Chief Executive Officer Surya Mohapatra is the first to say the company's upcoming expansion in Oklahoma City is an exception to its current operations.

Construction of a $16 million home for Diagnostic Laboratories of Oklahoma, a Quest subsidiary, is set to begin in spring near Britton Road and Broadway Extension, with completion in 2011.

"The Diagnostic Laboratories of Oklahoma has done tremendously well," Mohapatra said."The people of Oklahoma have shown how you can grow, that it doesn't matter what's going on with the economy. They're helping patients, and they're making the company grow. So, it's time to invest in the facilities."
The company's current home, along the Interstate 40 and Meridian Avenue hotel corridor, is split between two office buildings; people must cross a side street to go from the administrative offices to the lab space.
"We've got about 10 pounds of groceries in a 5-pound bag," Mosteller said. "Our growth has been unexpected. We've been wildly successful. Our reputation as a quality provider has us working with a lot of physicians."

The new facility will span 70,000 square feet, compared to DLO's current home that has 46,000 square feet.
Mosteller said the site will be behind the McBride Clinic and next to the future Thunder practice facility. Once complete, the building also will be home to cytology programs that currently are housed away from the DLO offices.
The expansion coincides with an overhaul being contemplated for the nation's health care system, an overhaul that doesn't worry Mohapatra.

Before being named Quest chief executive, Mohapatra spent years researching cardiovascular science, diagnostic imaging and testing.

When the H1N1 flu outbreak first hit and the genetic code was identified, Mohapatra said his scientist developed a test within 10 days. More recently, the company developed a saliva test to measure the effectiveness of the blood thinner Plavix.

"There are a million people who get the stent," Mohapatra said. "And they are on this blood thinner. For 30 percent, it doesn't work. So, you need genetic testing to see if it works. And this is a saliva test, so you don't have to draw blood. It can be done at home, and this will change the level of care. Without this test, you might think the Plavix is working, and if it's really not, you can get a clot."

Such advancements won't be deemed less necessary under the health care legislation being contemplated by Congress, Mohapatra said.

"More people will be covered, and there may be more pressure on the industry. But with the number to be covered, and with the emphasis on wellness and prevention, it will be a net positive for us," Mohapatra said.
"One thing that isn't going to change is people aren't going to stop getting older," Mohapatra said. "And as people get older, they're going to need more diagnostic testing. If you catch a disease in its early stages, you can stop it."

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