Open Orphan PLC (LON:ORPH) said its hVIVO subsidiary has won a multi-million pound UK government contract to develop a coronavirus (COVID-19) human challenge study model to help speed up the development of a working vaccine.
The model development involves the manufacture of the challenge virus and what’s called a first-in-human characterisation study for this virus.
The work will be conducted at London’s Royal Free Hospital by hVIVO with help from researchers at Imperial College.
This leaves the company’s state-of-the-art facility in the capital’s east end, which is booked to capacity until next summer, free to deal with traditional contracts.
The UK government work starts immediately and could be worth as much as £10mln depending upon the final number of volunteers that are included in the characterisation study.
In addition, the authorities have secured the first three slots to test vaccines using hVIVO's COVID-19 challenge study.
Each slot reservation costs £2.5mln, bringing the total value of these slot reservations to £7.5mln, Open Orphan said.
In a statement, Open Orphan chairman Cathal Friel said: "We are pleased to be working on behalf of the UK government and in partnership with two great institutions, Imperial College London and The Royal Free Hospital.
“We look forward to working with our partners to develop a COVID-19 human challenge study model which will be used to safely accelerate the discovery of effective vaccines and antivirals against COVID-19.
"We hope our work will reduce the impact of COVID-19 on individuals and communities, and our thoughts go out to the many people whose lives have been affected by the pandemic."