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Open Orphan wins vaccine contract extension and announces toxicology study completion

23 Dec 2020 | by: Mark Sheridan

Open Orphan (LSE: ORPH) subsidiary Venn Life Sciences has extended a consulting contract with a global pharma firm to support two vaccine development programmes. 

Venn’s Breda office in the Netherlands will handle chemistry, manufacturing and control duties for the client. 

The unnamed buyer is one of the three largest pharmaceutical companies on the planet, Open Orphan said in an announcement on Tuesday.

The 12-month extension takes the Venn contract to December 2021. 

Open Orphan’s executive chairman Cathal Friel told the market:

This contract renewal underpins our confidence in delivering against ambitious growth targets for 2021 and securing strong revenue visibility moving forward. As we remain on target to be operationally profitable in the final quarter of this year, we also expect to see a significant impact on next year’s earnings from this revenue growth.

The update marks the third contract win for Venn announced in December 2020 alone. The company’s Paris branch won a contract to support a European pharma firm’s phase 2 clinical trial on Covid-19 to evaluate the safety of two drugs to treat patients with moderate and severe Covid in hospitals, while its Breda office signed an extended 12 month contract for a second Euro pharma player.

Work on both contracts starts immediately and runs to December 2021. Both would bring in “significant revenues” for Venn, Open Orphan said. 

Many pharmaceutical companies are substantially increasing their vaccine development spend and we expect that to continue in the months and years ahead as big pharma and governments rush to catch up on decades of extreme under-expenditure,”

– Cathal Friel, Executive Chairman for Open Orphan

This reaffirms our belief that we are entering a period of exponential vaccine development globally and thus, exponential opportunity for the Open Orphan group, including Venn and hVIVO to support pharma companies in the space.” 

Market analysts suggest that FY2021 revenues for the group are expected to hit £38 million, with net profits of around £7m.  

Friel has said the group will end 2020 with more than £20 million in cash on its balance sheet. 

Open Orphan took over Venn Life Sciences in a reverse takeover in June 2019, before merging with world-leading vaccine and antiviral testing firm hVIVO in January 2020. 

Elsewhere, in a release on Wednesday, Open Orphan announced that drug development company PrEP Biopharm had successfully completed a 12-week toxicology study for its novel pan-viral prophylactic asset PrEP-001.

PrEP, which is 62.6% owned by ORPH, said the animal model study provides safety data needed to move PrEP-001 into longer duration dosing in clinical trials.

The company intends to move forward with a real-world, field trial to validate the efficacy of PrEP-001 against all circulating respiratory viruses, including COVID-19, influenza and the common cold.

PrEP-001 is neither a vaccine nor an antiviral but a synthetic RNA ‘viral mimic’ that stimulates the body’s pan-viral innate immune response locally in the upper respiratory tract.

It is administered via a once-daily nasal spray and leverages the innate immune system to create an all-encompassing antiviral environment.

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