Why Inovio Pharmaceuticals May Be the Next Big Thing

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Shares of Inovio Pharmaceuticals Inc. (NASDAQ: INO) saw a massive gain early on Wednesday after the company announced a critical update from its HIV vaccine. Specifically, the company said that Pennvax-GP produced among the highest overall levels of immune response rates (cellular and humoral) ever demonstrated in a human study by an HIV vaccine.

These preliminary results are from a study supported by the HIV Vaccine Trials Network (HVTN) and the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in collaboration with Inovio.

The vaccine candidate, Pennvax-GP, consists of a combination of four HIV antigens designed to cover multiple global HIV strains and generate both an antibody (humoral) immune response as well as a T cell (cellular) immune response to both potentially prevent and treat HIV.

The study evaluated a four-dose regimen of Pennvax-GP DNA vaccine administered by intradermal or intramuscular administration in combination with a DNA encoded immune activator, IL-12 (INO-9012). Overall, 71 of 76 (93%) evaluable vaccinated participants showed a CD4+ or CD8+ cellular immune response to at least one of the vaccine antigens.

At the same time, 62 of 66 (94%) evaluated participants demonstrated an env specific antibody response. None of the placebo recipients demonstrated either a cellular or an antibody response in the study. Notably, among the participants receiving the vaccine and IL-12 with intradermal immunization, 27 of 28 participants demonstrated a cellular response and 27 of 28 demonstrated an HIV env specific antibody response.

Dr. Stephen De Rosa, Research Associate Professor, Laboratory Medicine at the University of Washington, and Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, commented:

The preliminary results of HVTN 098 are remarkable for a number of reasons. In HVTN 098, nearly all individuals vaccinated with the regimens including IL-12 had detectable CD4 responses and over half had CD8 T cell responses. Similarly, the antibody response rate was 100% or close to 100% for several of the env antigens tested in the assay. Thus, these high response rates are exceptional. Further studies will be needed to determine if this vaccine candidate can safely and effectively prevent HIV infection.

Shares of Inovio were last seen up nearly 25% at $8.89 on Wednesday, with a consensus analyst price target of $10.80 and a 52-week range of $5.83 to $11.62.