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Open Orphan races ahead with £3.5m US human challenge study contract (ORPH)

The Open Orphan share price surged in early Monday trading as the Anglo-Irish pharma specialist sealed another multi-million-pound US contract. 

A Monday 4 May RNS confirmed a £3.5 million human challenge study with an American biotech firm that will focus on RSV, or respiratory syncytial virus. 

The study will run at the company’s quarantine unit in Q3 2020. The 24-bed clinic is Europe’s only commercial venue with a quarantine unit and on-site virology laboratory. hVIVO is also the only company globally with the ability to run an RSV human challenge study, it said. 

All of the revenue would be realised in 2020, executive chairman Cathal Friel said. 

The contract win follows a £3.2 million human challenge study deal Open Orphan announced in March. 

Friel noted the signing of the contract “demonstrates the Open Orphan and hVIVO group’s focus on building long term contracts with recurring revenues to deliver future profitability.”

RSV vs Covid

RSVs are extremely common and highly contagious viruses which cause lung and airway infections. They form the basis for a large proportion of all hospital visits for small babies under the age of two. The virus causes common infections in adults as well, but is generally milder for older groups.  

Interest in treatments for extremely common lung and airway infections has grown in the medical community with the worldwide spread of the coronavirus pandemic. Experts now believe that even as the infection rate of Covid-19 dissipates, it will return every year along with other common strains of the flu. 

There is as yet no vaccine for SARS-COV-2, and although several are reportedly in development it could be as long as two years before a preventative treatment becomes commercially available. 

One of hVIVO’s founders, virology expert Professor John Oxford, was recently brought in to lead Open Orphan’s coronavirus study committee

Looking forward

Current CEO Trevor Phillips will also stand down after three years at the helm, the company confirmed. Philips said it was “an honour” to have led the firm as CEO. He will remain in post until June 2020. 

Friel reiterated his team’s main focus was on delivering growth at “a very exciting time” for the company, converting a pipeline of prospects and turning them into solid revenue for 2020 and beyond. 

The ORPH share price has more than doubled from 4.85p on 1 January 2020 to 10p as of Monday 4 May. Investors are now looking ahead to a strong year of revenue despite the disruption caused by global lockdown. ORPH’s share price puts the market cap at £53.4 million, £20 million higher than it was in February.  

Open Orphan raised £4.5 million in its IPO on 28 July 2019 as a reverse takeover of AIM-listed Venn Life Sciences.

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