Open Orphan subsidiary signs €6.7m contract for flu study

Influenza could be a major global issue due to low immunity caused by reduced infection

Cathal Friel, executive chairman of Open Orphan, a rare and orphan drug consulting services platform

Cathal Friel, executive chairman of Open Orphan, a rare and orphan drug consulting services platform


Dublin-listed pharmaceutical services company Open Orphan has announced that its subsidiary Hvivo has signed a £5.7 million (€6.7 million) contract with a specialist biotechnology company developing therapeutics for respiratory viral infections.

The contract is to test its antiviral product using the Hvivo influenza human challenge study model.

The human challenge study is expected to commence in the first quarter of next year and will be conducted at Hvivo’s facilities in London. The company expects the revenue from the contract to be recognised across 2021 and 2022.

In virus challenge studies, healthy volunteers are administered a pathogenic or virulent strain of virus. These challenge agents are then used in controlled human infection studies, an area that Hvivo has focused on since 2001.

The company said on Monday that its client’s influenza antiviral product has “demonstrated effectiveness” in animal preclinical models of respiratory viruses.


It also said it has several clinical and commercial advantages with respect to convenience, resistance, durability and compatibility when compared to similar products.

The company expects to sign more contracts in this area as attention switches to potential future influenza outbreaks.

Influenza is expected to be a major global issue due to low level population immunity caused by reduced infection rates over the last 18 months, which is the result of Covid-19 mitigation measures such as social distancing and mask wearing.

Open Orphan said the contract will help ensure the company enters a period of sustained growth and profitability across a whole range of challenge studies.

Open Orphan, a European-focused, rare and orphan drug consulting services platform, is the result of executive chairman Cathal Friel reversing his pharma services business of the same name into Dublin-listed drug clinical trials manager Venn Life Sciences.

Mr Friel said on Monday: “We are delighted to be working with this biotechnology company to test their exciting antiviral product against our influenza human challenge study model.

“As a result of social distancing, hand washing and other Covid-19 mitigation measures, there has been extremely low levels of population immunity to influenza.

‘Increasing concern’

“As such, there is an increasing concern that in the year ahead influenza outbreaks could spike considerably and therefore this type of therapeutic could form part of an effective defence against future outbreaks of influenza.

“This contract is also a further demonstration of our expertise and capabilities testing therapeutics across the infectious disease and respiratory market, which is due to grow exponentially to over $250 billion by 2025, as pharmaceutical companies around the world look to restock the medicine cabinets with novel vaccines and antivirals.”