What it does

Open Orphan Plc (LON:ORPH) was established in 2017 to build a platform that helps pharma companies commercialise their products in Europe, with a specific focus on drugs that treat rare diseases.

Since then, it has built a database of all the firms with orphan drugs that have either been approved or are currently going through the clinic.

Open Orphan has also put together a 4,000-strong directory of physicians and key opinion leaders with expertise in marketing and selling orphan drugs.

Normally, drug developers would have to pay a handsome fee to a third-party to help find those experts, but Open Orphan intends to undercut the market with a cheaper annual subscription which gives the drug companies access to the platform.

In January, Open Orphan merged with challenge trial specialist hVIVO PLC (LON:HVO), whose shareholders ended up owning around 44.7% of the combined entity.


How it is doing

In February, Open Orphan was given the go-ahead to begin the world’s first COVID-19 challenge study following the award of a UK government contract.

Up to 90 volunteers between the ages of 18 and 30 years old will receive the virus in a safe and controlled environment to enable identification of the most appropriate dose of the virus needed to cause COVID-19 infection

The study will help set international standards for challenge agent manufacture and storage, building on the current World Health Organisation guidelines.


What the boss says: Cathal Friel, executive chairman

Cathal Friel talks to Proactive London’s Katie Pilbeam about the world’s first COVID-19 characterisation study receiving approval from a specially convened Research Ethics Committee (REC). 

This follows a contract received by the company’s subsidiary hVIVO from the UK government to develop a COVID-19 human challenge study model.

Friel explains that the vaccines industry has been the ‘cinderella’ of the sector for so many years, but is now growing fast.


What the analyst says