Shares in Ireland's Open Orphan vaccine human testing firm climb 352% in 2020

Share leap is on the back of multi-million contracts for the live human testing of a range of vaccines it is carrying out in London on behalf of the UK's health authorities
Shares in Ireland's Open Orphan vaccine human testing firm climb 352% in 2020

Cathal Friel, executive chairman of Irish pharmaceutical company, Open Orphan

A small Irish-based laboratory that conducts live trials testing potential Covid-19 and other vaccines for the British government is the biggest winner on the Irish stock exchange this year, with the stock gaining 352% during the pandemic.

That performance puts it up there among the best stock performances across Europe, beating in percentage terms even the gains posted by Germany's BionNTech, led by Professor Ugur Salin, who has helped produce one of the two potentially most successful vaccines.

The 352% leap in Open Orphan shares this year – the shares rose a further 3% in Dublin trade on Wednesday – is on the back of multi-million contracts for the live human testing of a range of vaccines it is carrying out in London on behalf of the UK's health authorities, led by their health secretary Matt Hancock. 

The jump in shares still values Open Orphan, led by executive chairman Cathal Friel, as a relative minnow, at €174m.

Mr Friel, who was once best known in Ireland for the dealmaking in regional newspapers he brokered while at the former Merrion Capital, owns about 19% of the company. On Wednesday, it told the market it had evidence of progress in an early trial of a nasal spray for Covid-19. 

Its shares have performed better than Pfizer, which is producing the BionNtech vaccine, and whose shares have risen just over 4% this year in New York, albeit valuing the pharma giant at €167bn. BioNtech shares are up 164% in Frankfurt this year, to value it at €19.4bn.

Other drug giants, which are developing vaccines, have not fared so well.

In London, shares in AstraZeneca, which is developing the vaccine candidate made by Oxford University, have fallen 4% this year to value it at €105.5bn.

Shares in Johnson & Johnson, based in New Jersey, have gained 7% this year, to value it at €329bn.    

However, shares in Moderna, which has developed another of the most promising vaccines, have performed the best of all the well-known vaccine names. Its shares have jumped 509% this year, valuing the Massachusetts-based firm at €40.8bn. 

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