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Quest Diagnostics (DGX) & CDC to Assess Hepatitis C Burden

Quest Diagnostics Inc. DGX has been awarded a contract by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (“CDC”) to assess the burden of hepatitis C virus (HCV) in the United States. The multi-year agreement was granted to Quest Diagnostics following a competitive bid and marks a new phase of a decade-long collaboration between Quest Diagnostics and the CDC to improve hepatitis public health research based on insights from laboratory data.

Other research collaborations between Quest Diagnostics and CDC have focused on the fentanyl drug crisis and HIV, as well as COVID-19 variant tracking using the company's next-generation sequencing. In recent times, the company has formed and expanded its strategic relationships with a slew of healthcare partners.

Significance of the News

According to the CDC’s published estimates, approximately two million Americans are infected with hepatitis C, but most are unaware that they have it. Left untreated, the disease can progress to advanced stages, including liver cancer and death. The infection in its early stages can be identified through laboratory testing, while treatment may be curative.

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Zacks Investment Research

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In a 2020 report, the CDC recommended one-time hepatitis C testing for all individuals aged 18 years of age or older and that all pregnant women be tested for HCV during each pregnancy. Routine periodic testing is also recommended for people with ongoing risk factors.

With its comprehensive offering of hepatitis screening and monitoring assays, Quest Diagnostics has the largest private laboratory database with more than 60 billion data points. The company routinely develops research, called Quest Diagnostics Diagnostics Health Trends, based on this data with the CDC and academic experts.

News in Detail

Under the new agreement, Quest Diagnostics will perform both HCV antibody testing and molecular RNA testing using HIPAA-deidentified "remnant" specimens randomly selected from clinical test specimens. The goal is to gain a better understanding of the burden of hepatitis C infection in the United States.

Quest Diagnostics and CDC’s longstanding partnership highlights the importance of strategic public-private collaborations to inform public health strategy in critical health areas. The company previously worked with the CDC to analyze laboratory test results, which healthcare providers ordered for patients with suspected hepatitis infection. In 2013, the two organizations formed an agreement to jointly analyze de-identified hepatitis C testing data for "Baby Boomers" or individuals born from 1945 through 1965.

Since 2012, Quest Diagnostics has supported the CDC in advancing public health by providing deidentified laboratory results for hepatitis A, B, C and E. All shared laboratory test results are deidentified and HIPAA-compliant.

Industry Prospects

Per a Research report, the global hepatitis C market was valued at $55.1 billion in 2022 and is expected to witness a CAGR of 14.2% by 2032.

Other Recent Strategic Relationships

Last month, Quest Diagnostics announced a multi-year collaboration with Scipher Medicine to scale precision medicine access for patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Quest Diagnostics will provide advanced RNA extraction and next-generation sequencing services for Scipher's PrismRA — regarded as a breakthrough in RA precision medicine diagnostics.

The company also entered into a strategic partnership with the biotech company, Universal DX (UDX). Under the agreement, Quest Diagnostics plans to perform and provide clinical laboratory services to providers and patients in the United States based on UDX's Signal-C — an advanced colorectal cancer screening blood test, assuming the premarket approval of the test in the United States.

Price Performance

In the past six months, shares of DGX have increased 0.5% compared with the industry’s rise of 3.2%.

Zacks Rank and Key Picks

Quest Diagnostics currently carries a Zacks Rank #3 (Hold).

Some better-ranked stocks in the broader medical space are Haemonetics HAE, Insulet PODD and DexCom DXCM. Haemonetics and DexCom each presently carry a Zacks Rank #2 (Buy), and Insulet sports a Zacks Rank #1 (Strong Buy). You can see the complete list of today’s Zacks #1 Rank stocks here.

Haemonetics’ stock has increased 3.9% in the past year. Earnings estimates for Haemonetics have increased from $3.86 to $3.89 in 2023 and $4.11 to $4.15 in 2024 in the past 30 days.

HAE’s earnings beat estimates in each of the trailing four quarters, delivering an average surprise of 16.1%. In the last reported quarter, it posted an earnings surprise of 5.3%.

Estimates for Insulet’s 2023 earnings per share have increased from $1.90 to $1.91 in the past 30 days. Shares of the company have dropped 35.6% in the past year compared with the industry’s decline of 5.8%.

PODD’s earnings surpassed estimates in all the trailing four quarters, the average surprise being 105.1%. In the last reported quarter, it delivered an average earnings surprise of 77.4%.

Estimates for DexCom’s 2023 earnings per share have increased from $1.41 to $1.43 in the past 30 days and to $1.44 in the past seven days. Shares of the company have increased 2.1% in the past year compared with the industry’s decline of 5.1%.

DXCM’s earnings surpassed estimates in all the trailing four quarters, the average surprise being 36.4%. In the last reported quarter, it delivered an average earnings surprise of 47.1%.

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