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Chembio to work on rapid tests for dengue fever and cancer

Dhammika Gunasekera, director of research and development, left,

Dhammika Gunasekera, director of research and development, left, and scientist Kathleen Addiss prepare to encode DPP tests for HIV-syphilis blood samples on Oct. 24, 2014. Credit: Joseph D. Sullivan

Chembio Diagnostics Inc. announced Tuesday that it has signed agreements with two companies to develop rapid tests for dengue fever virus and an undisclosed type of cancer.

The Medford-based manufacturer of point-of-care tests for HIV and syphilis said the dengue partnership was concluded Monday, the same day that Chembio announced a partnership with Integrated BioTherapeutics Inc. of Maryland for the development of an Ebola test. That news sent Chembio shares soaring on the Nasdaq market on Monday.

Chembio officials said the cancer partnership was reached earlier this month.

They would not identify the company's partners for the dengue and cancer tests or disclose the cancer type.

Chembio chief science and technology officer Javan Esfandiari said the cancer agreement was the first time Chembio's testing technology was being applied "outside of the infectious disease field, and it is our hope that bringing the [technology] to the oncology market will aid in improving outcomes for patients battling cancer."

The dengue virus is transmitted by mosquitoes in India, South America and portions of Africa. The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates about 400 million people are infected per year.

Chembio chief executive John J. Sperzel said the small company plans a stand-alone test for dengue fever and to include it in a broad test for febrile illnesses. The latter was developed last year with the federal government.

He also said Chembio's technology "has application in other clinical areas, and we are thrilled that an industry collaborator has recognized the potential value . . . within the oncology market."

The announcement came before the stock market opened. Chembio shares closed down 42 cents, or 9 percent, to $4.31 Tuesday, wiping out much of Monday's gain.

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