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Open Orphan set to join AIM as it agrees reverse takeover of Venn Life Sciences

Open Orphan was co-founded back in 2017 by Cathal Friel, the serial Irish investor behind companies such as Amryt Pharma and Fastnet

scientist in laboratory
Open Orphan’s platform puts drug developers in touch with commercialisation experts

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).

Friel was the co-founder of Amryt Pharma PLC (LON:AMYT), while he also served as chairman of Fastnet Oil & Gas for five years. More recently, he has chaired the Venn board of directors.

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.

Annual subscription

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.

Quick facts: Open Orphan PLC

Price: 18.25 GBX

Market: AIM
Market Cap: £121.52 m

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