Inovio plans to start a clinical trial of its coronavirus vaccine in the U.S. next month with the thought to expand to China and South Korea shortly thereafter.
Inovio Pharmaceuticals Inc (NASDAQ: INO) is up over 18% in the premarket. Now its price is $8.80. But on Tuesday its results were even more impressive. INO stock gained practically 70%, reaching the level of $7.45. It happened after Inovio announced it has been speeding up the timeline for the development of a vaccine to treat the coronavirus COVID-19. The company added it expects to start human trials in the United States next month.
The stock has more than doubled in three months as anticipation for the company’s vaccine, dubbed INO-4800, have risen, and as the virus has spread to more than 91,000 people and caused more than 3,100 deaths.
Helped with MERS, Zika and Ebola
Pennsylvania-based Inovio already is famous for its DNA vaccines and now has manufactured products to treat 15 indications. For now, it is the only company that has developed a phase 2 vaccine for the coronavirus that caused Middle East respiratory syndrome, or MERS. The company was also called on to help during the 2016 Zika outbreak and the Ebola outbreak in 2014.
Inovio Chief Executive J. Joseph Kim explained that the company designed INO-4800 on January 10 in three hours after the publication of the genetic sequence of the virus.
“We immediately began preclinical testing and small-scale manufacture and have already shared robust preclinical data with our public and private partners. We plan to begin human clinical trials in the U.S. in April and soon thereafter in China and South Korea, where the outbreak is impacting the most people.”
Maxim analyst Jason McCarthy noted Inovio may just have the best vaccine option for the new epidemic. The pace within which it developed INO-4800 “is a demonstration of the versatility and speed with which Inovio can respond to an ‘emergency’ situation.” The thing is, the company decided to simplify the process as much as it is possible. It didn’t go and use inactivated viruses like in the case with traditional vaccines. Instead, Inovio’s platform used DNA to express a protein from the virus in patients’ cells. The immune system then recognizes the protein as foreign and develops antibodies to it, in theory providing immunity if the patient is infected with the virus.
As per the announcement, Inovio plans to start a clinical trial in 30 healthy volunteers in the U.S. next month and then eventually spread it to people in China and South Korea. Data from the studies should be available in the fall.
NIAID to Start Testing Inovio Coronavirus Vaccine in a Month
Director of the United States National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), Dr. Anthony Fauci, said on Tuesday that yesterday NIAID authorized entrance of the vaccine against the COVID-19 in phase one.
He said that “very soon, in a month, month and a half, we’ll be sticking the first person in the arm with the vaccine. But this is only the first stage. We will be giving it to normal healthy people. Phase two trial comes in the next three or four months. The whole process will take one, one and a half years at least.”
Fauci added that there are two large trials happening right now in China. “When we get their results in several months, we will have our own trial. If the drug works and you prove it works – you will treat people. You have to cumulate enough patients, up to 400 patients in each trial. When it’s over and if the drug works after we evaluate the data – then we’ll know what to do.”
Between Inovio and Moderna: Inovio Could Win
According to H.C. Wainwright’s Ram Selvaraju, Inovio could win this fight for two reasons. The first relates to the fact that Inovio is already experienced in epidemics such are SARS or Ebola. Secondly, as Inovio’s offering is a DNA-based vaccine, there is no need for refrigeration or cold chain logistics.
Inovio stock is up in the premarket. Its sturdiest competition in the race to market comes from fellow biotech Moderna Inc (NASDAQ: MRNA) that is set to begin a phase 1 trial at the same time. Moderna stocks are falling by 0.21% in premarket to $27.85 at the time of writing.