Chembio lands $550K grant for Zika test

Changing of the border guard: Medford-based Chembio Diagnostics has made some moves with its roster of international executives.

Chembio Diagnostics has been awarded a $550,000 “catalyst grant” to develop a rapid test for the Zika virus and similar maladies. The grant comes from Microsoft co-founder Paul G. Allen, who has a long history of supporting Chembio’s research efforts, most recently surrounding the Ebola outbreak.

Company officials said Chembio will develop a test to detect Zika alone, and another to detect Zika, dengue and chikungunya viruses. The company also will add Zika to a six-virus blood test it has in development, also with support from Allen’s foundation.

“It is essential that government, industry, and regulatory agencies work together to address the global health emergencies posed by emerging diseases such as Zika virus,” said Chembio CEO John Sperzel. He said his firm is confident it can achieve success “responding to the global need for rapid tests to detect Zika virus.”

Dr. Sandra Laney, innovation director for Allen’s foundation, called Chembio’s work “an example of how the lessons from the recent Ebola crisis are sparking innovations in how the global health community tackles outbreaks.”

Codagenix, a Long Island firm that digitally recreates viruses in order to reprogram their genomes, previously announced that it is preparing to take on the Zika virus.

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