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Chembio Diagnostics wins $13M contract toward Zika test

Alina Sikar-Gang, a senior scientist at Chembio Diagnostics

Alina Sikar-Gang, a senior scientist at Chembio Diagnostics in Medford, analyzes prototypes of some the rapid tests the company produces for testing for HIV and other infectious diseases on Tuesday, Oct. 28, 2014. Credit: Newsday / John Paraskevas

Chembio Diagnostics Inc. has won a U.S. government contract valued at up to $13.2 million for further development of its rapid test for the Zika virus, executives said yesterday.

The Medford-based manufacturer of point-of-care tests for HIV and syphilis said $5.9 million of the federal Department of Health and Human Services funding would go toward its Zika test and a companion results reader.

The $7.3 million balance of the contract will be used for development of a combination test for Zika, chikungunya and dengue.

CEO John J. Sperzel said the federal money “will allow the company to further develop the DPP Zika IgM/IgG assays, complete key clinical trials and complete important U.S. regulatory submissions.”

Last month, Chembio received approval to sell the Zika test in Europe and the Caribbean.

The company also has been seeking regulatory approval to introduce the test in Brazil, where many people have been affected by the disease.

Chembio’s prior Zika work was supported by grants from the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation. Allen is a co-founder of computer software giant Microsoft.

Zika is spread by mosquitoes and was first identified in 1947.

Recently, outbreaks of the virus in French Polynesia and Brazil have been tentatively linked with women giving birth to babies with microcephaly — unusually small heads — and brain damage. There also has been a handful of cases in the United States, including in New York City and Florida.

Chembio shares rose 86 cents, or 14 percent, to $7 yesterday on the Nasdaq market. The shares are up more than 31 percent so far this year.

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