Digene says Abbott will market its tests from Europe to Africa

Beltsville firm is selling diagnostics to drug giant

Biotechnology

May 12, 1999|By Mark Guidera | Mark Guidera,SUN STAFF

Digene Corp. a Beltsville-based developer of DNA-based medical tests for diseases, said yesterday that drug giant Abbott Laboratories will act as the marketer and distributor for its tests in Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

Among the tests Abbott will market are Digene's diagnostic products for hepatitis B and the human papillomavirus (HPV), considered a precursor to cervical cancer.

In the United States, Abbott, one of the world's largest marketers of medical diagnostics, will launch sales of Digene's new automated tests for chlamydia, a urinary tract infection, and gonorrhea, a sexually transmitted disease.

Charles M. Fleischman, Digene's chief operating officer and chief financial officer, said the company would continue marketing in the United States its DNA test for human papillomavirus.

Digene's HPV test is approved in the United States for use as a follow-up to inconclusive Pap-smear exams, the standard test for cervical cancer. In some countries, the test is approved as a primary screening tool for cervical cancer.

Thomas D. Brown, Abbott's senior vice president for diagnostic operations, said Digene's testing technology, which detects the presence of viral and other DNA matter, would complement the company's portfolio of diagnostic tests and devices.

Fleischman said Digene is hopeful that Abbott's considerable marketing force will expand the market for its HPV tests overseas, and as a result build the company's revenue stream this year. The company reported a $6.6 million net loss on $12.4 million in revenue during the nine-month period that ended March 31.

He declined to estimate the sales growth Digene expects from the Abbott marketing partnership. Under the agreement, Digene will sell its tests directly to Abbott, and Abbott will be able to mark up the price for resale to hospital and clinical laboratories. Digene would be responsible for manufacturing and persuading health insurers to cover its tests.

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