Quest Diagnostics teams up with CDC for hepatitis research initiative

Chronic hepatitis B infection from a liver biopsy--Courtesy of Nephron, Creative Commons CC BY-SA 3.0

Quest Diagnostics ($DGX) inked a deal with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to improve screening, diagnosis and treatment for four strains of viral hepatitis in the U.S., expanding on a previous collaboration and giving the company a boost as it continues to restructure and restore revenue growth.

Under the agreement, Quest will provide the CDC with analytics and clinical testing data for hepatitis A, B, C and E, allowing researchers to develop guidelines to speed up diagnosis of the disease and improve outcomes. In particular, researchers will focus on identifying and monitoring hepatitis B and C in pregnant women to reduce gaps in screening and prevent liver disease in newborns, the company said in a statement.

The deal builds on an earlier collaboration between Quest and the CDC, as the two teamed up in 2013 to analyze hepatitis C data in the Baby Boomer population. In 2012, the agency issued recommendations for one-time lab screening for patients born between 1945 and 1965, saying they were 5 times more likely than other adults to be infected with the disease.

An expanded partnership with the CDC could help Quest as it looks to chart some upward momentum. In 2014, the New Jersey-based company unveiled a 5-point plan to reverse sluggish sales including reorganization, job cuts, managerial changes and acquisitions. Since then, Quest has forged ahead with growth, inking a $570 million deal for Solstas Labs Partners Group to strengthen its foothold in the industry. The company last year also teamed up with researchers to develop diagnostics for diseases such as cancer and rheumatoid arthritis.

Quest's hard work seems to be paying off, with Q4 2014 revenues of $1.9 billion that beat analysts' estimates. The company is predicting more success in the year to come, forecasting 2 to 3% revenue growth in 2015.

Quest's collaboration with the CDC also comes at a pivotal moment in the industry, as drugmakers such as Gilead Sciences ($GILD) and AbbVie ($ABBV) compete for a top spot in the hep C playing field. AbbVie and Gilead are waging a series of pricing wars over rival meds, with Gilead winning more coverage deals for its hep C therapy Harvoni than AbbVie for its Viekira Pak cocktail.

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