As Zika fears spread, Cerus nabs American Red Cross partnership for blood pathogen reduction

Intercept platelet processing--Courtesy of Intercept

More than a year after Cerus ($CERS) gained FDA approval--now the American Red Cross has bought into its technology with a multi-year deal for its Intercept Blood System for pathogen reduction in platelets and plasma. It's responsible for about 40% of the U.S. blood products, delivering 1.1 million plasma and 780,000 platelet units last year to almost 2,600 hospitals and transfusion centers.

This news is obviously timely in the midst of global concerns regarding the Zika virus. It represents a coup for the long-time small cap company and investors have sent its often volatile shares up about 10% recently in reaction. If the test case in America proves successful, the nonprofit could opt to adopt Intercept as standard across the broader International Red Cross and Red Crescent organization. That, of course, would translate into substantial sales for Cerus--which by design relies upon sales into major blood suppliers.

"The Red Cross is dedicated to blood safety vigilance including pathogen reduction. The Intercept Blood System will serve as an intervention to protect patients against infection from emerging and potentially unknown blood-borne viruses, bacteria and parasites," said VP of Scientific Affairs at Red Cross Biomedical Services Dr. Susan Stramer in a statement.

The financial terms of the deal weren't disclosed. But it represents a small portion of the potential market--almost 100 million transfusions occur globally every year. The Intercept Blood System is designed to block replication of harmful viruses, bacteria, and parasites--even if they are unknown. It works by distinguishing between these pathogens, which have functional DNA and RNA, and platelets and plasma, which do not.

Intercept platelets processing set--Courtesy of Intercept

Other available technologies rely on targeting specific nucleic acid sequences or specific families of pathogens. But Intercept works across the board to reduce any transfusion-transmitted infections, regardless of if there are screening or testing methods for the related pathogen.

"This agreement with the Red Cross represents a pivotal step toward making Intercept-treated components available to a majority of patients throughout the U.S.," said Cerus President and CEO William Greenman. "Working closely with the Red Cross as part of the TRUE study in Puerto Rico has provided both organizations with important operational experience that we will be able to leverage as the Intercept Blood System is broadly deployed at Red Cross sites nationally."

That study was designed to test its effectiveness in containing the spread of Chikungunya and dengue virus via the blood supply in Puerto Rico. Cerus already has signed a handful of deals with smaller U.S. blood product providers, including two earlier this year with Blood Systems (BSI) that represents 10% of the U.S. blood supply and another with LifeShare Blood Centers, which supplies blood products to more than 100 medical facilities throughout Louisiana, East Texas and Southern Arkansas.

- here is the announcement

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