NYC & Wash DC Order OraSure Rapid HIV Test
OraSure Rises on New York HIV Test Order
2006 The Associated Press
NEW YORK - Shares of OraSure Technologies Inc. surged Tuesday after New York City's health department agreed to buy $6 million in quick tests for HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.
OraSure shares rose 62 cents, or 7.2 percent, to $9.28 in afternoon trading on the Nasdaq at above average volume. The stock rose 4 percent Monday on news that Washington, D.C.'s health department agreed to buy the company's product to test its more than 500,000 residents for HIV by 2007. Its shares have traded between $7.74 and $14.14 in the past 52 weeks.
The multiyear New York agreement calls for OraSure to supply OraQuick Advance rapid antibody tests, which can use saliva collected with a swab to detect the presence of both HIV-1 and HIV-2 in 20 minutes.
Montgomery & Co. analyst Wade H. King upgraded OraSure to a "Buy" from a "Hold," and fixed a price target of $11.
King had speculated that the scheduling of New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg to ring the Nasdaq's opening bell on Tuesday along with Doug Michels, OraSure's chief executive, indicated a deal similar to Washington's in the works, despite Bloomberg's last-minute cancellation.
The analyst said he expects Washington to order 80,000 OraQuick tests in 2006 and more than 400,000 in 2007.
OraSure gets 2nd big-city order
New York will buy $6 million in HIV tests over three years.
By Sam Kennedy Of The Morning Call
In what could be the start of a trend, Bethlehem rapid HIV test manufacturer OraSure Technologies announced its second big-city contract this week.
The New York City Department of Mental Health and Hygiene has agreed to buy $6 million of OraSure's marquee product, the OraQuick HIV test, over three years, the company said Tuesday. OraQuick is the only government-approved rapid HIV test that can detect in both blood and saliva the virus that causes AIDS.
On Sunday, OraSure described its role in a Washington, D.C., campaign to test 400,000 residents by year's end. The district's Department of Health launched the effort, which OraSure had helped to plan, with an order of 80,000 OraQuick tests, at a total cost of about $1 million.
''We created [the campaign] as a template to be used by other cities around the country,'' said OraSure Chief Executive Officer Douglas Michels.
An industry analyst agreed that the strategy had the potential to lead to a new stream of income.
''If it's popular in New York and D.C., then why wouldn't it work just about anywhere?'' said Aaron Lindberg, of William Smith Special Opportunities Research, a Denver company that advises institutional investors. He could think of about a dozen other cities that might implement similar programs.
The New York and Washington deals widen OraSure's lead over other rapid HIV test manufacturers, he added.
OraQuick became the first government-approved rapid HIV test in 2002. Since then, at least two other tests, most notably the Uni-Gold test made by Trinity Biotech of Ireland, have followed in its footsteps.
OraQuick, however, retains an important advantage - versatility. Uni-Gold, by comparison, requires a blood sample. But OraQuick users can swab saliva from their mouths and insert the specimen into a plastic receptacle that indicates, in about 20 minutes, whether the test result is positive or negative.
After New York City switched to the oral OraQuick test last year, HIV testing increased 30 percent, OraSure's Michels said. ''Word gets out that the health department is offering an oral fluid test.''
Last year, concerns about the product arose after several major cities, including New York, made public what appeared to be a spike in false positives. A subsequent investigation found no reason for alarm; the test was determined to have been 99.8 percent accurate in identifying people who do not have HIV.
OraSure employs about 200 people in Bethlehem. It also sells drug tests and a wart removal product.
D.C. gives big order to OraSure
Nation's capital will distribute 80,000 tests as part of program.
Staff and wire reports
District of Columbia officials are urging 400,000 residents to be tested for HIV using oral tests produced by a Bethlehem company, an unprecedented push health officials hope will reverse one of the country's highest infection rates.
The city plans to kick off a campaign Tuesday encouraging men, women and teenagers between the ages of 14 and 84 to take an oral swab test that delivers results in 20 minutes. The swabs for the tests will be provided by OraSure Technologies, based in Bethlehem. The OraQuick Advance Rapid HIV test uses saliva or blood to detect the virus that causes AIDS.
The Department of Health will distribute 80,000 tests to hospital emergency rooms, private doctors' offices and community health programs. If the supply is exhausted before the end of the year, then one-fifth of the key population will have been reached in the next six months, officials said.
''I don't think you'll find routine citywide testing anywhere in the country,'' said Walter Smith, executive director of D.C. Appleseed Center for Law and Justice, which recently recommended a citywide strategy for standard HIV screening.
The ''bold and extensive'' HIV testing launch is one of the largest campaigns involving OraSure, according to company Chief Executive Officer Douglas Michels. He said the company is in talks with other cities to provide the oral tests for residents.
Michels said it's not yet known how many tests the company will provide for the city.
''The tests will play a key role in helping people get tested and allow them to know their HIV status,'' Michels said Sunday. ''The main objective is for people to know their HIV status.''
In May, OraSure Technologies announced it had landed a major order for rapid HIV tests from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The federal health agency ordered $2.3 million worth of OraQuick Advance HIV tests. The CDC distributes the tests to state and local health agencies.
The nation's capital has the highest rate of new AIDS cases in the country, at 179.2 per 100,000 people. Almost 10,000 people in the city have the disease, with blacks disproportionately affected. The city does not have enough data to estimate how many people have HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.
City officials want the rapid test to become as common as blood-pressure monitoring or a cholesterol check. The CDC is considering a recommendation ''strongly encouraging'' doctors to offer HIV tests as a matter of course to teen and adult patients.
''If we are serious about addressing this epidemic in our community, then screening for HIV has to become routine,'' said Marsha Martin, who heads the city's Administration for HIV Policy and Programs. ''Because we'll miss too many people otherwise.''
City officials hope those who test positive will change their sexual behavior and seek treatment.
But Patricia Nalls, executive director of the Women's Collective, a nonprofit that provides care to HIV-positive women, said greater funding for treatment is also needed.
''So there's going to be a group of people who find out they're positive,'' she said. ''How are we going to take care of them?''
Martin said her administration plans to expand outreach, counseling and treatment services. Under one program, HIV-positive residents would be provided with helpers to get them through rough periods and to stay on medication.