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August 29, 2016: OraSure Gets U.S. Contract to Hurry Development of Zika Test

Funding will speed development of oral test kits for the virus

OraSure Technologies Inc. said Tuesday that it had been awarded a U.S. government contract to speed the development of its oral test kits for the Zika virus.

“The Bethlehem, Pa., maker of oral tests for HIV and Ebola said the six-year contract was for upward of $16.6 million with a biomedical research agency attached to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

“The initial commitment is for $7 million with options of up to $9.6 million to finance evaluation of further product enhancements, and clinical and regulatory services, OraSure said.

“’We believe the availability of an accurate rapid Zika antibody test will be a valuable tool to address current and potential future outbreaks,’ said Douglas A. Michels, OraSure’s chief executive. ‘[The funding] will enable us to complete clinical and other activities required to obtain regulatory approvals for this product.’

“OraSure said it would provide an update on guidance and timing during its November earnings call. Shares of the company rose 9.3% in after-hours trading.

“The company’s test kits for HIV and Ebola use mouth swabs to collect saliva. Orasure claimed its tests for Zika will be of greater use than the examination of tissue or blood samples because the virus can be detected earlier with its technique.

“The Zika virus, identified in Uganda in 1947, has spread in Latin America since its 2014 arrival in Brazil before making its way north. The virus has been spreading in Florida.

“According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as of Aug. 11 there were 529 cases of pregnant women possibly infected with the Zika virus, which can infect a fetus, possibly causing birth defects including microcephaly, an abnormally small head associated with improper brain development.:

Source: The Wall Street Journal

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