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Zika contract worth up to $4.9 million awarded to Chembio

Staffers at Chembio Diagnostics perform a lab test

Staffers at Chembio Diagnostics perform a lab test in Medford on Oct. 31, 2016. Credit: Barry Sloan

A Medford manufacturer has won a contract worth up to $4.9 million to supply a Zika diagnostic test and companion results reader to UNICEF, executives announced Tuesday.

Chembio Diagnostics Inc. said the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund has agreed to purchase a minimum of $1.5 million worth of the rapid tests and results readers. It may buy an additional $3.4 million under a contract ending on Dec. 31, 2019.

The contract is substantial for the local company, which reported revenue of $18 million last year.

Chembio said its deal with UNICEF is subject to the company’s meeting some conditions, including gaining permission from the World Health Organization for use of the test.

Chembio CEO John Sperzel said Tuesday its Zika test and results reader “will become essential tools in the battle against the Zika virus.”

Since 2015 there have been Zika outbreaks in more than 80 countries, including in the United States. The virus takes its name from the Ugandan forest where it was first identified in 1947.

Zika causes the birth defect microcephaly, where infants have smaller-than-normal heads.

Chembio developed the Zika diagnostic test and results reader in part with federal funding, which could eventually total $13.2 million. The products are now sold in the Caribbean and Europe.

A company spokesman said UNICEF will likely deploy the test and results reader in Africa.

In September the federal Food and Drug Administration approved temporary use of the diagnostic test by some laboratories to combat a potential outbreak of Zika in hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Florida and Texas.

Chembio also won approval in July to begin selling the test in Brazil, which has been hit hard by Zika.

The contract announcement came before Tuesday’s stock market open. Chembio shares closed at $6.85, unchanged from the previous day.

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