Open Orphan (LSE:ORPH) has confirmed that it is in advanced negotiations with the UK government for a coronavirus challenge study.
In a Thursday update in response to a spike in its share price, the pharmaceutical services firm said that any contract signed is expected to generate more than £7 million in revenue.
Open Orphan has previously announced that it is developing a coronavirus challenge study model and is in ongoing talks with vaccine developers.
The update also comes just days after the firm revealed that its subsidiary Venn Life Sciences has won an “important” new contract to support an oncology study with a major European pharmaceutical firm.
The niche contract research specialist said Venn’s Paris team would handle all data management, statistics and medical writing for the 750-subject study.
It’s just the latest contract win for this AIM-listed firm, which is now debuting regular news updates.
Open Orphan is the world’s leading company in vaccines and antiviral testing using human challenge trials. Since a £13m merger with contract research specialist hVIVO in January 2020 Its market cap has grown to more than £95 million to date.
Open Orphan has become a cash-generating machine with Cathal Friel at the helm, stripping out costs and slimming down the executive team at the top.
One very important point mostly missed by the mainstream share news sites came at the foot of the Venn contract RNS. This is a slice of news first mentioned in an August investor webinar and has early investors seriously excited.
“In our clinical trials going forward, we are also planning to collect data on volunteers via wearables during clinical trials. Therefore, Open Orphan’s data, which may yield valuable digital biomarkers, could be one of the more sought-after datasets by many of the large wearables /smart watch wearables providers around the world,” wrote the firm.
Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) holds the lion’s share of the smart watch market with Samsung (LSE:SMSN) in second, and fitness giants Fitbit (NYSE:FIT) and Garmin (NASDAQ:GRMN) filling out the top four.
Fitbit, for example, announced its intention to step into the ‘healthwatch’ market in August, unveiling its Fitbit Sense. This device comes with ECG, stress monitoring and medical sensors to track body temperature, breathing rates and electrodermal activity.
And Open Orphan’s lucrative dealmaking continues to impress. An August €4.4m contract with a then-unnamed top three global biopharma firm — later revealed by Friel to be Pfizer — is just the latest multi-million pound deal struck taking advantage of the company’s specialism in providing respiratory syncytical virus challenge studies.
Other huge potential money-spinners include the monetisation of Imutex and Prepbiopharm: other businesses received in the initial reverse takeover of Venn and merger with hVIVO.
Imutex, a 49% partnership between Open Orphan subsidiary hVIVO and SEEK Group, has a potential candidate for the Holy Grail of vaccines: a universal flu vaccine called Flu-V, which is Phase 3 ready. PrEPBioPharm, 62.6% owned by Open Orphan, has a viral
prophylactic with expected utility against Covid-19.