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LSE interview – Cathal Friel refocuses Open Orphan #ORPH as he raises 5m and buys virology specialist hVIVO

In a wide-ranging interview with London South East, Open Orphan Executive Chairman Cathal Friel outlines his vision for the business and explains how the combined talents of Open Orphan, hVivo and Venn Life Sciences will create a soon to be profitable pharmaceutical services one-stop shop.

Friel says this acquisition is the last however, as he is a major shareholder and he doesn’t want to see his own shareholding diluted along with everyone elses. The focus has been on reducing head count and building revenues at Venn Life Sciences since the Open Orphan IPO last June. Now, with the £13M bolt-on acquisition of hVivo, the London-based virology specialist company, the game has changed once again.

Friel says he sees hVivo as a loss-making and hugely undervalued asset. hVIVO went from being a vaccines and virology specialist to a drugs discovery business five years ago, with Neil Woodford and other investors putting in 113m of investment. “I really like Trevor Phillips and Tim Sharpington who came in 18 month ago to turn it around. But the previous management team got lost and we have picked up a bargain”. So how much are the assets worth today? “It’s very hard to say” explained Cathal, “113M in five years is a lot to spend but you can’t blow it all.

We have a 24 bed quarantine clinic facility which is worth 25 million or so on replacement value, we have a virology lab with the world’s largest stock of virology models likewise worth 25 million, and 7 or 8 million, so we 50 or 60 million of real assets”.

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