Inovio Pharmaceuticals Inc. (NASDAQ: INO) shares saw a handy gain on Wednesday after the company reported positive results from its early-stage Zika trial. Specifically, the company said that its DNA-based Zika vaccine (GLS-5700) generated robust antigen-specific antibody responses in a first-in-man Phase 1 trial.
In the initial testing, Zika-naïve subjects in both low dose and high dose vaccine groups demonstrated Zika antigen-specific antibody responses after one or two vaccinations. Additionally, the vaccine was well tolerated and no significant safety concerns were noted in any of the 40 subjects out to 14 weeks from initiation of dosing.
Also worth noting is that in preclinical testing Inovio’s Zika vaccine protected animals that had been exposed to the virus from infection, brain damage and death.
Earlier this month, Inovio and the Wistar Institute received an $8.8 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to develop a DNA-based monoclonal antibody designed to provide fast-acting protection against Zika infection and its debilitating effects. The company has a total market cap of about $550 million.
Dr. J. Joseph Kim, president and CEO of Inovio, commented:
These early clinical results show that Inovio is on track to rapidly develop Zika countermeasures for this disease that has no currently existing vaccine or treatment. Our synthetic vaccine technology allows rapid development of new products, leading Inovio to be the first to create a Zika vaccine, the first to generate preclinical data, the first to initiate human testing, and now first to report positive clinical data.
We also look forward to completing our second phase I study of 160 subjects in Puerto Rico, where the CDC estimates 25% of the population could be infected with Zika virus by year end. We expect results next year which may provide exploratory signals of vaccine efficacy. Based on these two studies, we plan to meet with regulators to map out the most efficient path forward to bring our Zika vaccine to patients and help mitigate this widespread Zika outbreak that has expanded into the continental United States.
Shares of Inovio were trading up about 7% at $7.42 on Wednesday, with a consensus analyst price target of $12.25 and a 52-week trading range of $4.50 to $11.69.