Quest opens Marlborough lab, plans to consolidate 1,350 workers there

Quest Diagnostics opened its 200,000 square foot clinical testing laboratory in Marlborough this week, bringing together 1,350 employees from facilities all around the region under one roof.

In an interview today, Quest CEO Steve Rusckowski said the renovation of part of the building at 200 Forest St. has been going on for a year-and-a-half, and cost the company “a little over $60 million.” Marlborough offered Quest a 15-year tax break, the value of which has not been disclosed, to help offset the costs of opening the lab.

Rusckowski said today that the lab, billed as a “lab of the future,” will be the site where samples from dozens of area hospitals and Quest-run clinical sites will be analyzed. Much of that work is done overnight between midnight and 8 a.m. so that results can be sent to the physicians electronically the following day. Rusckowski said the way that the hundreds of samples are processed is being automated using brand-new technology.

“It will obviously increase our efficiency, and it will also improve our quality, because we want to make sure to minimize any mistakes,” he said.

Additionally, he said that the facility will conduct research into new diagnostic methods through its Athena Lab, named after Athena Diagnostics, the genetic testing lab it bought from Thermo Fisher in 2011 that specializes in neurological diagnostics.

The renovation began when the New Jersey-based patient testing services company acquired the clinical outreach laboratory business of UMass Memorial Medical Center in January 2013, and simultaneously signed a lease for part of the 535,000-square-foot building vacated by computer company Hewlett-Packard about four years ago. The building is currently owned by Atlantic Management.

The consolidation will bring in employees from five current Quest facilities over the next nine months, he said, including the UMass Memorial building and the Athena Diagnostics site in Worcester. Quest also will vacate facilities in Central Square in Cambridge and at ConVerge Diagnostic Services in Peabody, which it bought a year ago, as well as a Wallingford, Conn., site.

While Rusckowski did not give specific numbers, he said the 1,350 employees who will work at the Marlborough facility will be less than the number at the five sites now, as the motivation for the new site was the “increase efficiencies” at the company’s New England region.

With $7.1 billion in revenues in 2013, Quest is the world’s largest diagnostic services business, with eight major lab facilities throughout the U.S. which serve about half of the hospitals in the country. The company employs about 41,000 people and boasts that it conducts tests for about 37 percent of all U.S. patients every year.