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Open Orphan rises as Venn wins major contract renewal with biopharma play

01 Feb 2021 | by: Daniel Flynn

Open Orphan (LSE:ORPH) advanced 3% to 23.7p on Monday morning after revealing a contract renewal expected to deliver “significant revenue” over the next 12 months.

The specialist pharma services clinical research organisation announced that the deal had been made between its subsidiary Venn Life Sciences and Carna Biosciences.

Carna Biosciences is a clinical-stage biopharma company focused on the discovery and development of therapies to treat serious unmet medical needs. It focuses in particular on small molecule drugs.

The team in Venn’s Breda office in the Netherlands will provide chemistry, manufacturing & control, non-clinical, clinical and regulatory consultancy services to Carna for two of its drug development programmes.

The deal extends an existing relationship between the two until the end of December this year, and is expected to deliver “significant revenue” to Open Orphan throughout.

Cathal Friel, Open Orphan’s executive chairman, said the extension of the contract demonstrates the firm’s ability to collaborate successfully in a way that results in repeat business.

“Venn and Carna have built up a good working relationship over a period of several years where both parties closely collaborated on drug development planning and its execution through consultancy services contracts,” he added. 

“We look forward to delivering this contract for Carna in the year ahead.”

Meanwhile, Masaaki Saqa, chief scientific officer and head of R&D at Carna added:

The partnership with Venn Life Sciences complements our clinical development team and underlines our commitment to become a clinical stage company. By continuing the collaboration with the Venn team, we will accelerate our drug development.”

Monday’s update comes just a week after Open Orphan announced that it had opened two new recruitment centres to screen potential volunteers for its human challenge clinical trials.

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.

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