Health Diagnostic Laboratory, a fast-growing biotech lab, is donating $2.2 million to the Science Museum of Virginia to help fund an exhibit on children’s health and physical fitness.
It’s the largest corporate gift the museum has received and will cover a little more than half of the total cost for the new exhibit, which is called Improving Grounds.
The attractions for the 8,400-square-foot exhibit are still being fleshed out, said Richard Conti, the chief executive at the Science Museum, adding that there will be things to measure a child’s athletic performance.
“The gallery is going to be designed on a competitive scale,” he said. “Things like testing a golf swing and how hard they can throw a baseball.”
Conti said construction would start in January and is expected to be complete by 2013.
“For science museums all over the country, health and life science is a pretty big theme for us,” he said. “People can relate to it.”
Conti said that with the increasing childhood obesity rate, the museum wanted to incorporate a fun exhibit for kids to learn about ways to improve their health.
“How can we get people to take better care of themselves, and how you get people to eat and sleep better?” he said. “What we’re designing lets us address those things.”
The museum started talking with HDL over the summer about the new exhibit.
Russ Warnick, co-founder and chief science officer at HDL, said that the company has supported local health-related charities since it was founded in 2009.
Warnick said that HDL has been growing about 5 percent a week. The company runs lab tests to detect diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, fatty liver disease and metabolic syndrome.
Most of the lab tests are also available from competing companies. But HDL also helps patients and doctors come up with individualized treatment plans for each patient based on their test results.
Warnick said the company was doing 1,000 tests a day on patients last year. Now the lab is conducting about 2,400 a day.
The company has close to 400 employees, and Warnick said it is adding about seven people a week with 650 new hires to come on in the next few years.
The lab is also working on a $65.8 million plan to expand its facilities downtown at the Virginia BioTechnology Research Park on North Fifth Street.