Also known as a controlled human infection model, at its simplest, it is a method of testing potential vaccines against certain illnesses in a locked-down medical facility.
hVIVO owns Europe's only quarantine clinic with an onsite virology lab where the challenge model will be developed and used.
Volunteers will be exposed to common coronavirus strains such as OC43 and 229E.
While from the same family of viruses as the newly emerging Covid-19 virus, they are different in so much as they have been widespread in the community for many years. As such, they cause only a mild cold-like respiratory illness.
Open Orphan said these common coronavirus strains mentioned above can safely be administered to volunteers in a highly controlled quarantine clinic where to date 3,000 people have been safely inoculated against a range of respiratory virus challenge models.
Open Orphan said it was in early discussions with King & Wood Mallesons, acting for “selected Chinese pharmaceutical and life science clients”, to secure funding for the expansion of its coronavirus efforts.
Chairman Cathal Friel said the study was an “important milestone in the development and evolution of Open Orphan” and its hVIVO subsidiary.
“We are very happy to be able to try and assist in the battle against Covid-19,” he added.
“Our hVIVO scientists and virologists, and especially hVIVO's founder and the now chairman of our scientific advisory board, Professor John Oxford, have a long history and experience of successfully developing challenge studies.
“This development also reinforces the strength of hVIVO's reputation as a world leader in providing services to global vaccine and anti-viral production companies and is another example of the growth potential for Open Orphan.”
Last Friday (March 6), the company inked a deal with an unnamed European biotech worth at least £7mln to carry out a human challenge study for respiratory syncytial virus, the cause of mild colds.