Open Orphan develops first challenge study model to test Covid-19 vaccines

Dublin-listed pharmaceutical services company publishes annual results for 2019

Dublin-listed pharmaceutical services company Open Orphan said it has developed the world's first challenge study model to test the efficacy of the large number of potential Covid-19 vaccines.

Challenge study models involve patients that are deliberately exposed to a disease – in this case to a form of the virus.

The company recently signed what it described as a "major" deal with an unnamed vaccine developer through its Venn Life Sciences unit.

The company has also announced that it is working on an antibody testing service that will have capacity for up to 3,000 tests per day, using its Quotient testing instruments, which the group says can offer 100 per cent accuracy.


Publishing its annual results for 2019, which showed it made a loss of €6.5 million, the pharma firm said the global pandemic had provided “unprecedented growth opportunities”.

Cinderella industry

"Traditionally, the testing of vaccines and antivirals had been somewhat of a Cinderella industry, however, following the advent of the Covid-19 pandemic it is clear that for the months and years ahead the development of new and novel vaccines and also the testing of such vaccines and antivirals will be one of the fastest growing areas of the pharmaceutical industry," Cathal Friel, executive chairman of Open Orphan, said.

“In recent decades, governments and pharma companies around the world completely underinvested in new vaccines and the onset of Covid-19 caught them significantly off-guard and as such there is a huge capital investment program under way around the world to roll out an extensive range of Covid-19 and importantly non-Covid-19 vaccines to ensure that the world is not caught unprepared in future pandemics,” he said.

Open Orphan, which recently acquired London-based hVivo, said a further €2.5 million of costs will be removed from the business in the first half of 2020. Annualised savings of €2 million in hVivo and €3 million in Venn have already been secured since the January merger.

The company said that fundraisings in January and May which together raised £17.9 million (€19.7 million) had increased liquidity and strengthened the balance sheet to “ leverage a broader service offering to an enlarged and combined customer base”.