Open Orphan Q&A: hVIVO begins testing of antiviral for COVID-19 (LON:ORPH)

Covid-19 testing

Open Orphan plc (LON:ORPH) Chief Executive Officer Cathal Friel caught up with DirectorsTalk for an exclusive interview to discuss that hVIVO has begun testing of an antiviral for COVID-19.

Q1: Earlier you announced that Open Orphan’s London-based subsidiary hVIVO has begun testing of an antiviral for testing COVID-19, Cathal what can you tell us about that?

A1: First of all, hVIVO are the world-leaders in a small niche but rapidly growing market of testing of both vaccines and antivirals using human challenge study models. That’s the only way you can test efficacy of a vaccine without going for a monster field trial.

Antivirals, what we’re doing here is not a human challenge model, it’s using the very elaborate expertise and laboratory services we have with hVIVO and we’re basically testing this particular antiviral drug on behalf of a client in-vitro of efficacy against killing the virus, does it kill the virus or not?

Q2: So, in terms of timeline, how long do you expect the testing to take?

A2: Vaccine testing is a bigger, longer process but antivirals can be much shorter and quicker. So, this will probably be the first of quite a number of antiviral work we’ll be doing, some of them we can announce, some of them we can’t.

So, testing antivirals tends to be 3 to 4 months, they’re not big long complicated pieces of work, it’s the vaccine programmes that tend to be much longer and more complicated. Antivirals, even as of today, I think the last count is about 100 antivirals under test around the world and our belief is a number of those will prove effective against COVID-19.

Q3: Do you think they’ll be many of those that will be taken up, that will actually be used or manufactured?

A3: Yes, absolutely. This is a novel new disease so there’s no clear cure for it, a vaccine protects you if you don’t get it, vaccines do take longer, there’s a lot of companies around the world, they’ll be a number of successful vaccines, that’s very clear, but it’s probably going to take a little longer. Some of the vaccine companies are talking of this year, some others are talking about next year.

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When it comes to antivirals, these are already products that are sold, safe and used in the market for other diseases so really, it’s a matter of trial and error testing some of them. Again, like vaccines, it won’t be a winner takes all, they’ll be quite a number of antivirals that’ll prove effective, safe and they’ll be used.

So, you’ll see getting back to normality will be antivirals that will are proven effective so that anyone going into hospital with COVID-19, they can give you an antiviral which basically is an antivirus that kills the virus and gets it up and running much quicker.

Q4: Finally, what can investors expect in terms of news flow over the coming weeks and months from Open Orphan?

A4: We’ve deliberately, for the last 5 weeks, remained quite quiet, I think the whole world has been suffering and so there’s no sense talking a great talk. I think hVIVO being a world-leader in the development of vaccines and antivirals, it’s a small niche, we all know it’s becoming a very large niche and a lot more work.

So, in the coming weeks and months, we would hope to be announcing a lot of quite substantial contracts in human challenge study tests of vaccines and other progress as we go forward. We already announced, 6 weeks ago, that we’re developing a coronavirus challenge study model and we would expect to see more news in that space.

More news flow going forward from this week, we had a deliberate strategy of toning down because we wanted to get everything settled down. All small cap companies are having headwinds, some more so than others, but hopefully hVIVO and COVID-19, there’s quite a number of positives coming out it for that particular arm of the business.

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