Open Orphan plc Announces £3m COVID-19 Challenge Virus Manufacturing Contract

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Cathal Friel

LONDON– Open Orphan plc (AIM: ORPH), a rapidly growing specialist pharmaceutical services contract research organisation (CRO) and world leader in vaccine and antiviral testing using human challenge clinical trials, announces that hVIVO, a subsidiary of Open Orphan plc, has signed a contract with Imperial College London, as part of a Wellcome Trust funded initiative to manufacture a SARS-CoV-2 challenge virus.

The contract is worth £3 million and under this agreement hVIVO will develop a new SARS-CoV-2 challenge virus based on new emerging variants of the virus, which will be used in future hVIVO run human challenge trials to allow direct comparisons of vaccines or antivirals against different COVID-19 variants.

The manufacturing project will begin immediately and is expected to complete before the end of 2021. Following completion of the manufacturing project there is the potential for a follow on characterisation study for this virus to be conducted by hVIVO in partnership with Imperial and Wellcome.

hVIVO has two decades of experience and expertise in challenge agent (virus) manufacture across a range of respiratory viruses including various strains of influenza, Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV), human Rhinovirus hRV (common cold virus), as well as a more recently initial circulating SARS-CoV-2 virus. These challenge agents are then used in controlled human infection studies, an area that hVIVO has focussed on since 2001.

Open Orphan has successfully initiated the development of a number of Coronavirus challenge viruses. The Company has already developed the initial circulating COVID-19 (SARS-CoV-2) virus as part of the Human Challenge Programme in partnership with the UK Government.