Serial Irish investor Cathal Friel is set to bring his latest venture onto the market next month after his Open Orphan business agreed to reverse into AIM-listed contract research firm Venn Life Sciences PLC (LON:VENN).
Founded in 2017
He set up Open Orphan a couple of years ago, with the aim of building a platform that helps pharma companies commercialise their products in Europe, with a specific focus on drugs that treat rare diseases.
Since then, more than €3mln has been invested into the company, most of which has gone on building a database of all the firms with orphan drugs that have either been approved or are currently going through the clinic.
Open Orphan has also put together a 4,000-strong directory of physicians and key opinion leaders with expertise in marketing and selling orphan drugs.
Normally the drug developers would have to pay a handsome fee to a third-party which would help find those experts, but Open Orphan intends to undercut the market with a cheaper annual subscription which gives the companies access to the platform.
At the moment, Open Orphan is more of a ‘virtual rep’ service, which can be used to support the launch of new products or to promote mature brands.
But Friel and his team want to grow the company into a full-service consultancy for orphan and rare disease drugs.
Acquisition war chest
A fundraising in the works that will arm Open Orphan with some cash to go on a consolidation spree in the highly fragmented orphan drug pharmaceutical services market.
Before that Venn shareholders will have to approve the reverse takeover at a meeting, which is due to take place in June.
Venn is paying £5.7mln in shares to Open Orphan shareholders, who will then have control of the enlarged company.
“The combination of Venn and Open Orphan gives us a strong platform and we have the pipeline and management team to go out and build a leading full-service consultancy offering services to the fast-growing orphan drug market right across Europe,” said Friel, who will take over as the enlarged group’s chief executive.