Cathal Friel, Executive Chair of Open Orphan. Picture: Jason Clarke

“Suddenly, it went from nobody wanting to know us to the whole world wanting to know us”

The original plan was to build a steady-Eddie clinical research organisation, and sell it on. That plan went out the window when Covid-19 hit. Now Open Orphan is setting its sights much higher.

8th Jul, 2020 - 6 min read

Cathal Friel had a plan: through acquisitions, he was going to bolt together a small drug research business. Then he was going to sell it. 

The term for these companies is contract research organisations, or CROs. They’re the companies drug companies pay to run clinical trials. CRO businesses are more steady-Eddie than early-stage biotech, which either make a fortune or nothing at all.

Friel’s CRO is called Open Orphan. Open Orphan is made up of two businesses: Venn Life Sciences, which it acquired in June last year, and hVivo, which it acquired in January of this year. Both of these businesses had been losing money and struggling before...

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