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OraSure secures US contract to accelerate development of Zika test

OraSure Technologies has secured a US government contract to accelerate the development of its oral test kits for the Zika virus.

The six-year contract was for upward of $16.6m with the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response’s Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA).

The initial commitment is for $7m with options of about $9.6m to finance evaluation of further product enhancements, and clinical and regulatory services.

Rapid Zika tests from OraSure will be based on the same technology used in rapid HIV, HCV and Ebola test kits. The company says that even though there are molecular tests present to detect Zika virus, the time factor is of importance due to the short window of time, the Zika RNA can be detected in patients.

It is also of significance because of the production of anti-Zika antibodies developing in the body soon after the infection. OraSure says that there is a need for rapid Zika antibody test.

Apart from this, presently, tests are only conducted in a laboratory and if rapid tests kits are available, then they can reduce the time of results for healthcare provider and patient.

OraSure Technologies president and CEO Douglas Michels said:"We believe the availability of an accurate rapid Zika antibody test will be a valuable tool to address current and potential future outbreaks.

“We are grateful to BARDA for making this funding available as it will enable us to complete clinical and other activities required to obtain regulatory approvals for this product.”

The company, earlier this year said that it has been working on rapid Zika assays on its OraQuick platform and was looking for external funding to advance the program.