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Open Orphan expands human challenge trial capacity with new volunteer recruitment centres

20 Jan 2021 | by: Daniel Flynn

Open Orphan (LSE:ORPH)

We may have entered a new year, but momentum at Open Orphan continues to build at pace.

On Wednesday, the rapidly-growing pharma services firm and AIM darling announced that it had opened two new recruitment centres to screen potential volunteers for its human challenge clinical trials.

The first new site is a repurposed former coffee shop at the streel level of the Queen Mary BioEnterprise Innovation Centre in Whitechapel, East London. This is also the site of a 24-bedroom state-of-the-art quarantine clinic operated by Open Orphan subsidiary hVIVO.

The facility’s opening marks the first-ever time a branded volunteer recruitment centre has been situated at street level so volunteers can walk straight in for screening. The large, multi-use space also can provide substantially more volunteer medical screening and processing to hVIVO, offering 520 slots per week. The goal is to increase this figure even further over time.

The second facility is based in central Manchester, broadening Open Orphan and hVIVO’s reach and reducing travel time for potential volunteers. The site will have an initial capacity for more than 100 visits per week, but this will increase substantially over the coming months. The clinic is due to process its first volunteers later this month.

Open Orphan is a world leader in vaccine and antiviral testing using human challenge clinical trials and has been pushing forward on this front enormously over the past 12 months.

Of particular note has been its key role in response to Covid-19 throughout the period.

In April 2020, the company began testing an antiviral drug using hVIVO’s virology expertise and laboratory.  The drug has potential utility for treating the global virus, providing both antiviral and anti-inflammatory activity to decrease its infectivity and severity.

Then, in May, Open Orphan partnered with Quotient Limited for COVID-19 antibody testing using hVIVO’s laboratory. MosaiQ system’s best-in-class COVID-19 antibody testing performance was added to the virology lab in London, bringing fast and accurate antibody testing to the UK.

Soon after, hVIVO launched Covid Clear, an offering to employers in the UK to help protect staff and customers from COVID-19 outbreaks via a full range of tests.

The firm also won the first-ever human challenge study contract for Covid-19 from the UK government in October, potentially worth up to £40 million.

The market for vaccine development and CROs has boomed in response to the pandemic.  It’s expected that governments and big pharma will make huge catch-up investments in vaccine development to ensure the effects of any future outbreaks can be mitigated.

On Wednesday’s news, Open Orphan’s executive chairman Cathal Friel said:

These spaces presented an opportunity for us to open street level volunteer recruitment centres quickly and efficiently.

“The number of volunteers required by hVIVO is increasing rapidly in line with the number of studies the company is running, and these two additional centres will allow us to increase our capacity substantially in the year ahead. Given our extensive pipeline of upcoming contracted studies, we are also continuing to explore additional quarantine facilities.” 

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