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A year that changed the fortunes of the world and of medical companies | Pharmaceutical industry

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The pandemic has taken a heavy toll on business, emptying main streets as familiar names fall into receivership. But for some lesser-known companies, the past 18 months have been transformational. Those who have prospered have done so by carving out a new niche for themselves with products as diverse as Covid sequencing technology kits and surgical masks with anti-virus coatings. We asked some of them about the year it all changed.

Oxford Nanopore

Oxford Nanopore, whose coronavirus sequencing technology has played an important role in tracking variants globally, last week confirmed its intention to float in one of the London Stock Exchange’s biggest debuts of the ‘year. The show is expected to make two of its three founders millionaires, all scientists who met at Oxford.

Chief Executive Officer Gordon Sanghera will retain one preferred share, which will give him the power to block takeovers for three years. The goal is to turn Nanopore into a multibillion pound group before it can be swallowed by a rival.

The company, which emerged from the University of Oxford in 2005, hopes to exceed a valuation of $ 2.4 billion made in a fundraiser in May, and plans to tap into the growing market for genomic sequencing, estimated at $ 5.7 billion. Nanopore also won contracts for Covid tests worth $ 144 million from the Department of Health and Welfare last year. Its 2020 turnover has more than doubled to 114 million in what it called a pivotal year, up from 52 million in 2019. It aims to reduce its losses to break even within five years .

HeiQ

The London-listed Swiss company has developed a surgical mask with an ultra-thin copper coating that destroys viruses and bacteria. Studies by the Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity in Melbourne, Australia have shown that tissue treated with copper significantly deactivates the coronavirus in as little as five minutes.

HeiQ launched its Viroblock technology in March 2020, just at the time of the pandemic, and it is now used by 150 major brands: Burberry is integrating it into a range of reusable masks. Revenue increased 80% last year. At the end of 2020, the company was listed on the London Stock Exchange, raising $ 60 million. Managing Director Carlo Centonze called the pandemic a tipping point for antimicrobial textiles.

Pack shots of the Viroblock mask
HeiQs Viroblock antiviral masks have an ultra-thin copper coating. Photography: HeiQ Viroblock

Synairgen

The Synairgens share price has climbed 342% since July 2020, when the University of Southampton split made a major breakthrough with treatment for coronaviruses. The company has grown from less than 20 employees before Covid to around 100, including freelancers. Numis analysts predict revenue of up to $ 582 million from Covid treatment next year.

The drug is based on a discovery made at the university’s medical school nearly two decades ago by three professors Stephen Holgate, Donna Davies and Ratko Djukanovic who still act as consultants for the company. The trio found that people with asthma and chronic lung disease lacked a protein called interferon beta. They created Synairgen in 2004 to develop beta interferon treatments to strengthen patients’ defenses against viral infections.

The company’s main drug, developed to treat COPD lung disease, is an inhaled beta interferon that patients self-administer using a portable, battery-powered nebulizer. In May, shares rose again when the company said interim trials of the drug, which is given directly to patients’ lungs to prevent serious respiratory illnesses caused by Covid, showed potent antiviral activity against two variants of Covid. The tests also demonstrated broad-spectrum antiviral activity against other respiratory viruses such as RSV, adenovirus, and influenza.

Chief Executive Officer Richard Marsden said as the drug activates the immune system, the team is confident it will work against any variant. Assuming successful clinical trials in 17 countries, Synairgen hopes to file for regulatory approval globally early next year and ramp up manufacturing.

Oxford Biomedica

Oxford Biomedica is one of the companies making the Covid-19 vaccine developed by the University of Oxford and AstraZeneca. It began manufacturing in late 2020 after signing an 18-month supply agreement with the drug maker last September, and has since doubled its production capacity at Oxbox in Oxford, in the former sorting office. Royal Mail in town.

The gene and cell therapy specialist was founded in 1995 as a spin-out from the University of Oxford, was launched the following year and joined the FTSE 250 last year. Biomedica made tens of millions of doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine and doubled its estimate of vaccine revenue to 100 million in May. It expects significant growth in operating profits this year compared to last year 7.3 million. Jefferies analysts say the supply deal with AstraZeneca is expected to be extended beyond March 2022, but believe vaccine sales will decline, particularly in the developed world.

All is not rosy. Biomedica is reportedly set to appoint a new chief executive to replace John Dawson after a controversial new pay policy. The company gave foreign executives much higher stock bonuses and US-based non-executive directors additional fees of up to 50,000 per year, which was criticized by ISS governance experts as creating a two-tier pay structure.

Croda International

Managing Director Steve Foots described the involvement of East Yorkshire companies in the Pfizer / BioNTech vaccine as his proudest moment in over 30 years. Last summer, it acquired a lipid nanoparticle manufacturing company. These are tiny drops of fat that encapsulate genetic material called mRNA and allow it to enter cells, produce the coronavirus spike protein, and prime the immune system to fight disease.

Croda provides the particles for the Pfizer / BioNTech jab and is involved in more than 100 Covid-19 projects around the world. This skyrocketed its sales and profits and catapulted its stock price to record highs.

The company is on track to make at least $ 200 million from lipid systems this year, twice as much as expected, as Pfizer and BioNTech have increased vaccine production and aim to produce 3 billion jabs this year and 4 billion the next. Annual profits, Croda said at the end of July, would be significantly ahead of expectations, after a record profit of 230 million in the first half, up 50% from 2020 and 35% from 2019. While it expands its healthcare manufacturing sites, the old company transforms into a life sciences and cosmetics company, moving away from industrial chemistry.

Test providers

The pandemic has spawned a new generation of Covid-19 test manufacturers, such as Abingdon Health, Novacyt, Omega Diagnostics, and Genedrive.

Novacyt, an Anglo-French company listed in London, launched the first coronavirus test in Europe in January 2020 and landed lucrative government contracts. Managing Director Graham Mullis hailed a transformative year in 2020 in which Novacyt’s future was secured and he paid off all long-term debts. However, its relationship with the UK government deteriorated over a $ 150 million contract to supply PCR testing machines and kits, when the company complained in April that it had not been paid and that the contract had not been extended. Novacyts’ revenue in the six months to June rose 50% to $ 95 million, with $ 41 million from the government still in dispute.

The Abingdons share price jumped in late August when it launched a 32.85 finger prick test that tells people if they are protected against the coronavirus after vaccination or infection. The York-based company has high hopes for the new test, which comes after a few difficult months. He issued a profit warning in April amid a row with the UK government over unpaid bills for a different test, which was rejected by the UK health regulator for home use over concerns with precision. Abingdon disputes this conclusion, referring to a study conducted by PHE and other scientists, and also notes that the new test is different.

Russ Mold of stock broker AJ Bell said: If the virus refuses to go away, it could still spark new enthusiasm for these companies and their prospects, and even if Covid is ultimately defeated, many employers and individuals could still fall. stick to test programs. for reassurance or as a means of reopening business.

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