OraSure to receive up to $10M from feds to develop rapid Ebola test

OraSure Technologies ($OSUR) has received $10.4 million from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to develop the OraQuick Ebola Rapid Antigen Test for the continued fight against the disease in West Africa, where it remains a threat.

OraSure CEO Douglas Michels

Under the three-year deal, OraSure gets an initial $1.8 million, and potentially and additional $8.6 million for certain clinical and regulatory activities. The funding comes specifically from HHS' Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority.

"We believe that the availability of an accurate and simple rapid Ebola antigen test will be critical to containing and controlling current and future Ebola outbreaks," said OraSure CEO Douglas Michels, in a statement. "We are grateful to BARDA for making this funding available as it will enable us to complete key clinical activities and obtain important regulatory approvals for this product."

OraSure has already sold the point-of-care diagnostic to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for investigational use in Africa, and plans to use the data generated to apply for Emergency Use Authorization from the FDA.

Corgenix's Reebov Antigen Rapid Test for point-of-care diagnosis of Ebola in about 20 minutes got the emergency approval in March.

Orasure's Ebola Rapid Antigen Test utilizes the same technology deployed in the company's approved rapid tests for hepatitis C and HIV, which were the first rapid tests for the disease to earn FDA approval. OraQuick detects antibodies against the diseases to determine their presence in an oral fluid or blood sample in 20 to 40 minutes.

"Fast and inexpensive point-of-care diagnostics will improve our ability to control Ebola virus disease outbreaks," HHS research official Robin Robinson said in a statement, according to The Hill. "Faster diagnosis of Ebola virus infections allows for more immediate treatment and an earlier response to protect public health worldwide."

As part of $339.5 million in funding for Ebola preparedness granted by Congress, HHS is also awarding $20 million to 9 hospitals across the country to help them prepare for Ebola, as well as other infectious diseases.

Others are on the hunt for a rapid Ebola test as well. Biocartis, along with Johnson & Johnson's ($JNJ) Janssen Diagnostics and the Institute for Tropical Medicine in Antwerp, Belgium, is designing a product that runs on its Idylla automated molecular diagnostic platform and can complete its analysis for Ebola in around 90 minutes.

Meanwhile, 31 new cases of Ebola were detected in West Africa last week, an increase for the second week in a row.

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