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Chembio Diagnostics shares drop sharply after CEO resigns

John J. Sperzel, former CEO of Chembio Diagnostics,

John J. Sperzel, former CEO of Chembio Diagnostics, is seen in 2018. Sperzel resigned Jan. 3 and will receive $1 million in severance over the next 12 months, according to a securities filing. Credit: Newsday / John Paraskevas

The CEO of Chembio Diagnostics Inc. in Medford has resigned his post “for another opportunity,” the manufacturer of rapid tests announced.

John J. Sperzel III led the public company since 2014, expanding its point-of-care tests beyond HIV and syphilis to Ebola, Zika, dengue and other tropical diseases. The company secured millions of dollars in research grants and won approvals for its tests from international health care regulators during his tenure.

Sperzel’s duties as CEO and president have been assumed temporarily by venture capitalist Gail Page, a member of Chembio’s board of directors since 2017, the company said Thursday.

Chembio lost $7.9 million in 2018 on revenue of $33.4 million. It last posted an annual profit in 2013, according to securities filings.

The leadership change was announced after the stock market closed Thursday. Chembio shares tumbled more than 11% on Friday morning, trading as low as $3.95, before recovering in the afternoon at $4.54, or down 6.6%.

Sperzel resigned Jan. 3 and will receive $1 million in severance over the next 12 months, according to a securities filing. He was paid $1.5 million last year, including $416,847 in salary and $89,250 in a bonus, according to another filing.

Sperzel, 55, did not respond to a voicemail message seeking comment.

Chembio board chairman Kathy Davis said Sperzel had left the company in a good place. “The implementation and advancement of several key initiatives have positioned the company for continued growth in existing markets and expansion into others with a proprietary-leading technology platform,” she said in a statement.

Two years ago, Sperzel became an advocate for organ donation after undergoing a heart transplant because of a disease that’s been diagnosed only 300 times in more than 100 years. He had giant cell myocarditis and received the emergency transplant on July 8, 2017, in Massachusetts. He lives in Maine.

Chembio, under Sperzel, purchased a factory in Malaysia, established a European base in Berlin and announced plans to consolidate in Hauppauge its multiple buildings in Medford and Holbrook. The company also began using robots for some production.

Chembio had nearly 300 employees as of Dec. 31, 2018 with 240 of them in Suffolk County.

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