Norwich firm Anglia DNA’s new drug and alcohol lab is first phase of ambitious plan to create 100 new jobs

Pioneering Norwich-based science company Anglia DNA has launched a new work-based drug and alcohol testing service.

The company, a member of the EDP Future 50, which is based at Norwich Research Park (NRP), this year invested �500,000 on kitting out a new laboratory as part of the Claritest service.

The laboratory, the only one of its kind in the East of England, will offer rapid screening of hair and fluid samples. It was official opened by Mid Norfolk MP George Freeman, the government's life sciences advisors, who has championed the work of the NRP.

Although the idea of workplace drug testing could be seen as controversial, the firm believes that the hair test could help by providing evidence of an individual's commitment to rehabilitation citing evidence from recent research showing that being in employment is recognised as having a key role in achieving and sustaining recovery for people with drug problems.

Anglia DNA, which specialises in paternity testing services, including an off-the-shelf kit, said the new facility would be capable of carrying out drug-testing analysis for clients including lawyers, clinics, and even companies and public bodies looking to carry out workplace drug-testing on staff.

Thomas Haizel, managing director of the �1.7m-a-year business, said positive feedback from solicitors and local government encouraged Anglia DNA to expand and the service works by analysing hair samples.

'Hair grows about a centimetre a month, so taking a 3cm sample of hair cut close to the scalp will show drug and alcohol usage patterns over the last three months,' Dr Haizel said.

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'The root of the hair absorbs traces of the drug from the blood stream so the person needs to have actively taken the substance for it to show in the hair.'

'The benefit of the Claritest service is that it will provide an objective assessment of the person's drug habits. This can be used, for example, to support claims by a parent in a custody battle that they are now clean, or to allow an employer to introduce random screening in situations where drug usage can cause a risk to public safety.'

Solicitor Sandra Nunn, a Principal at Norwich-based Cozens-Hardy LLP, who is also backing the scheme, said it would prove helpful in cases of one person's word against another.

'If we have a case where a client feels they have been wrongly accused of drug or alcohol misuse then this testing service will be very useful,' she said.

Prof Andrew Stewart Coats, Norwich Research Park CEO, said: 'Anglia DNA is a good example of the type of science-based companies that we want to attract and nurture on the Norwich Research Park.

'The company aims to employ 100 people in the next 10 years and we are pleased to see it prosper.'