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Gates Foundation provides $20M for OraSure HIV testing in developing countries

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Bill and Melinda Gates. Photo by Kjetil Ree
Bill and Melinda Gates. Photo by Kjetil Ree

A Bethlehem medical device manufacturer will supply its HIV diagnostic product to developing countries at a reduced cost, thanks to a global foundation.

OraSure Technologies Inc. of Bethlehem said it entered into an agreement with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation that will allow OraSure to offer its OraQuick HIV Self-Test at an affordable price in 50 developing countries with funding from the Gates Foundation.

“We’ve had a relationship with the Gates Foundation for more than a decade,” Douglas Michels, president and CEO of OraSure Technologies, said this morning. “We are both very committed to addressing the HIV problem on a global basis.”

OraSure manufactures, develops, markets and sells oral fluid diagnostic products and specimen collection devices.

The Gates Foundation was aware that OraSure was working on this self-test, Michels said.

“We entered into a dialogue about how we can make the OraSure Self-Test more accessible, faster,” Michels said.

While people in these developing countries have some ability to pay, it’s often limited, and this is one of the challenges in getting the product to this market, he added.

“Gates saw a way to subsidize the price into these developing countries,” Michels said. “We made a commitment that when we sell the product into those countries for public consumption, Gates will subsidize those prices.”

The company said the funding from the Gates Foundation will be in an aggregate amount not to exceed $20 million over the four-year term, or exceed $6 million any year of the agreement. It will consist of support payments tied to the volume of product sold by OraSure and reimbursement of certain related costs.

“We have not entered into another agreement like this,” Michels said. “This is a unique and innovative approach to make this type of technology available to individuals who need it.”

Under a four-year charitable support agreement, OraSure will make its OraQuick HIV Self-Test available for purchase in 50 developing countries in Africa and Asia, the company said.

These countries include Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe, where the company has been providing tests for the “Self-Testing in Africa” or “STAR” project, implemented by Population Services International.

Through this agreement, funding from the Gates Foundation will allow nongovernmental organizations in eligible countries that receive funding from government or public sector agencies and donors to access HIV self-testing at reduced pricing.

The Gates Foundation said it is making this investment as part of its program-related investments strategy, which aims to stimulate private sector-driven innovation, encourage market-driven efficiencies and attract external capital to priority global health and development initiatives that improve the lives of the world’s most vulnerable people.

The OraQuick HIV Self-Test is a rapid, point-of-care test that allows an individual to detect antibodies to both HIV-1 and HIV-2 with an oral swab, with results possible in 20 minutes. The product is the same test used in the company’s OraQuick In-Home HIV Test.

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Brian Pedersen

Brian Pedersen

Reporter Brian Pedersen covers construction, development, warehousing and real estate and keeps you up to date on the changing landscape of our community. He can be reached at brianp@lvb.com or 610-807-9619, ext. 4108. Follow him on Twitter @BrianLehigh and read his blog, “Can You Dig It,” at http://www.lvb.com/section/can-you-dig-it.

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