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Open Orphan lands another £2.5m flu challenge study contract

Open Orphan

Open Orphan (LSE:ORPH)

Open Orphan has won a flu human challenge study contract worth £2.5 million with an unnamed US biotech. 

The study will be carried out by subsidiary hVIVO at the group’s 24-bed quarantine clinic in east London in H2 2021, and will be completed by the end of next year.

The contract demonstrates how Open Orphan’s revenue base extends far beyond Covid-19 and positions the group as “a world leader in its field”, the company said in an RNS

As part of the deal, subsidiary Venn Life Sciences will carry out biometrics for the study. This means applying statistical analysis to biological data to help progress products through tough drug development processes.

The company is pleased to continue to deliver on our pipeline of opportunities,” said executive chairman Cathal Friel, “building on the company’s long history as the world-leading challenge study provider. Recent events have highlighted the importance of treatments for viral infections and we are seeing an increased level of interest amongst both pharma and biotech for developing innovative new vaccines, antivirals and therapeutics.”

The flu challenge study represents just the latest in a string of multi-million-pound contract wins for the Anglo-Irish contract research organisation, which recently became profitable. 

So far this year, Open Orphan has revealed a £4.3 million deal with a global vaccine producer, a £4 million respiratory virus contract, signed three contracts to help companies test products in its on-site virology lab, launched a Covid-19 antibody test, reached a £3.5 million deal for a respiratory virus human challenge contract with a US pharma and inked a contract worth up to £7 million with a European pharma giant for a human challenge study. 

And things are looking even brighter moving forward. The company says that between its two subsidiaries, hVIVO and Venn Life Sciences, it now has a pipeline of potential contracts worth over £160 million to convert. 

The news follows a bombshell contract worth up to £40 million with the UK government for subsidiary hVIVO to conduct human challenge trials which will test up to three Covid-19 vaccines. The deal includes manufacturing a challenge virus and the first-in-human characterisation study for the novel coronavirus, with completion slated for May 2021.

Most of the media focus on Open Orphan has centred on viral and vaccine challenge study provider hVIVO, which runs Flucamp — paid clinical research trials from Queen Mary University offering up to £100 a day for volunteers.

But Cathal Friel said today’s news further shines a light on Venn Life Sciences and the full service offering the two companies can provide.

The European clinical data manager, which has offices in Paris, France and Breda, Holland, recently extended its deal with a Tier 1 German pharmaceutical company to provide pharmacometrics

Tier 1 is generally taken to mean the largest pharma giants in the world, including Novartis, Sanofi, Pfizer, Astrazeneca, Bayer, GlaxoSmithKline, Merck etc.

Friel has promised that Open Orphan does not need to raise any more money after its £12m placing at 11p in in May 2020, nor will it seek extra acquisitions.

The serial CEO told investors in a late-October presentation that the group would end 2020 with £20 million to £25 million in net cash.

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