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Chembio Diagnostics joining biotech firm to develop rapid test for Ebola

Scientist Kathleen Addiss uses a pipette to introduce

Scientist Kathleen Addiss uses a pipette to introduce a blood sample for a DPP test for HIV-Syphilis on October 24, 2014. Chembio Diagnostics Inc. of Medford plans to develop an Ebola test. Photo Credit: Joseph D. Sullivan

Chembio Diagnostics Inc. in Medford announced Monday that it would work with a Maryland-based biotechnology company on a new test for Ebola.

Executives said Chembio's point-of-care testing technology, already used to detect HIV and syphilis, could allow for quicker diagnosis of Ebola because tests can be performed at doctor's offices, clinics and in rural villages instead of samples being taken from patients and transported to a hospital or laboratory in a city for testing.

Test results would be known in minutes, not hours or days. And patients wouldn't have to travel far distances to be diagnosed, said John J. Sperzel, Chembio's chief executive.

Early detection is seen as crucial to surviving Ebola, which in the ongoing outbreak has claimed more than 4,900 lives in West Africa and one in the United States so far.

Chembio plans to combine its testing expertise with Ebola antibodies from Integrated BioTherapeutics Inc. in Gaithersburg, Maryland.

Integrated, which develops vaccines and therapies for the treatment of infectious diseases, works with federal health care agencies such as the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

M. Javad Aman, president of Integrated, said, "Development of a rapid point-of-care test for Ebola will be a critical step towards enabling early detection and quarantine that could help save countless lives."

Sperzel said the partnership is an outgrowth of a Chembio test -- developed last year with the federal government -- for five febrile illnesses, which are characterized by high fever, also a trait of Ebola. That test, now in clinical trials, doesn't yet detect Ebola, but Chembio hopes to expand the test's capability.

He estimated Monday that it would take about eight months for Chembio and Integrated to create the new Ebola test.

"Our goal would be months, not years," he said in an interview. "We're going to develop a stand-alone Ebola test. . . . We hope we can get it into the field during this outbreak, at least for clinical trials."

Chembio employs 170 people at operations in Medford and Holbrook, down from 210 in March.

The partnership was announced before the stock market opened. Chembio shares closed up 74 cents, or 19 percent, to $4.73 in Nasdaq trading Monday.


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