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Gen-Probe to double campus size in $43 million expansion

The site now is a vacant dirt lot, dressed up for Friday's groundbreaking ceremony with a white tent, strips of artificial grass and dignitaries wearing hardhats and holding gleaming shovels.

By early-2006, Gen-Probe (Nasdaq: GPRO) expects the land to hold a 292,000-square-foot facility, next door to its current 262,000-square-foot headquarters building on Genetic Center Drive.

The campus expansion essentially doubles Gen-Probe's space for manufacturing, research and development, while ultimately eliminating the need for rented sites elsewhere in the county.

Gen-Probe's Chairman, President and Chief Executive Henry Nordhoff said the company could use the expanded space to grow its headcount from 820 to 1,600 over the next decade.

Mayor Dick Murphy told Friday's assemblage the new building exemplifies Gen-Probe's growing presence in San Diego, while generating additional jobs and tax revenue. Gen-Probe in 2003 paid an estimated $1.05 million in local property taxes, $600,000 in state income taxes, and combined local and state sales taxes of $3.8 million.

Gen-Probe was spun off as a public entity from Chugai Pharmaceutical Co. Ltd. in September 2002. The local operation specializes in clinical molecular tests used to diagnose sexually transmitted diseases and cancer, and to screen human blood for HIV, hepatitis and, most recently, West Nile virus.

From left, Assemblyman George Plescia, Gen-Probe Chief Executive Henry Nordhoff, Councilman Brian Maienschein, Senator Dede Alpert and Mayor Dick Murphy ceremoniously turn dirt at an event to celebrate Gen-Probe's campus expansion Friday. Photo courtesy/Gen-Probe

While Gen-Probe has gained considerable market share in these areas, it still faces competition from behemoths such as Switzerland's Roche, "which is bigger than we are, at present," Nordhoff quipped.

Nordhoff said there are more business-friendly cities than San Diego in which to set up shop, but that Gen-Probe intended to work to make it better with the help of local organizations including the San Diego Regional Economic Development Corp. and Biocom. Representatives from both groups were in attendance.

Invited speakers State Sen. Dede Alpert and Assemblyman George Plescia said that elected officials recognize that biotech is an important part of local and state economies.

The half-hour long ceremony was followed by tours of the company's headquarters facility.

Gen-Probe's stock finished at $37.42 on Friday, a 3.34 percent increase.

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