Monday 21 May 2018

New 'orphan drugs' pharma group plans Irish market listing

Company wants to bring rare disease treatments from US to Europe

Open Orphan, chaired by former Malin chairman John Given, plans to list in Dublin and London. It's targeting an October or November date for the IPO. Stock image
Open Orphan, chaired by former Malin chairman John Given, plans to list in Dublin and London. It's targeting an October or November date for the IPO. Stock image
Gavin McLoughlin

Gavin McLoughlin

A new Irish pharmaceuticals company is seeking to float on the stock market before the end of the year.

Open Orphan, chaired by former Malin chairman John Given, plans to list in Dublin and London. It's targeting an October or November date for the IPO.

The company's strategy is to acquire rights for orphan drugs - treatments for rare diseases - and bring them to market in Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

It wants to buy rights for drugs that have already been approved for market by regulators in the US, or are very close to approval, meaning it does not have to get involved in the high-risk clinical-development process.

Open Orphan chief executive and chief medical officer, Dairine Dempsey, said it was too early to say how much money the company would look to raise, but that it would be looking at a "reasonably substantial public market raise".

"It will very much depend on the assets we identify. We're in very late-stage discussions, we're close to closing a number of transactions for rights at this stage."

Dublin-based Raglan Capital is a co-founder of the business alongside Dempsey.

It is the second orphan drug company Raglan has set up. It was a co-founder of Amryt Pharma, alongside that company's chief executive Joe Wiley, three years ago and remains Amryt's second-largest shareholder.

Dempsey said the ideal licensing partners for Open Orphan are "small or medium-sized US biotech companies that don't have a European footprint or European know-how in relation to bringing their products here".

Research carried out by the company found that there were far fewer orphan conditions with approved treatments in Europe, compared to the US.

"That discrepancy led us to the idea that there was obviously a reason why so many products that were available in the US were not available in Europe at the approved and on-market stage," Dempsey said.

She said the approval process in Europe, allied with the fact that receiving payment from national health services involves interaction with many different agencies, can be "pretty daunting" for companies with limited European know-how.

Open Orphan has established a scientific advisory committee which includes Dr Marlene Haffner, who was director of the office of orphan products development at the US Food and Drug Administration for over 20 years.

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