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Inovio Initiates Dosing in Phase I/IIa Study on MERS Vaccine


Inovio Pharmaceuticals, Inc. INO announced that it has dosed the first patient in a phase I/IIa study, evaluating its Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) vaccine INO-4700 to prevent infection from the deadly virus. The vaccine is being co-developed by Inovio and its Korean development partner GeneOne Life Science Inc.

The International Vaccine Institute is funding the study from a grant issued by Samsung Foundation, which is committed to support the development of MERS vaccine.

Depending on results from this study, Inovio expects to begin a phase II program on MERS vaccine in the Middle East during 2019 with a funding aid from Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI).

In April 2018, Inovio entered into an agreement with CEPI pursuant to which, the company intends to develop vaccine candidates against Lassa fever and MERS. Per the deal, CEPI funded a $56-million grant to Inovio for carrying out preclinical studies as well as planned phase I/II trials. Based on achievements, CEPI will provide further funding as potential milestone payments. Inovio’s vaccine candidate for Lassa fever will be known as INO-4500.

Significantly, INO-4700 is the first and the most advanced MERS vaccine, currently being developed for humans. In June, Inovio announced positive phase I results of its MERS vaccine study. The collaborative analysis along with the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research in Maryland, displayed antibody responses by ELISA among 94% patients at week 14 (two weeks post the third dose). Moreover, there were no statistically significant dose-dependent differences in antibody response rates (91%, 95% and 95% at doses of 0.67, 2 and 6 mg, respectively).

Shares of Inovio have rallied 28.5% year to date against the industry’s decrease of 3%.

Apart from INO-4700, Inovio also has other pipeline candidates in its portfolio which are progressing well.

Notably, on Tuesday, Inovio with GeneOne Life Science announced that it dosed the first patient in a phase I study, evaluating its hepatitis C vaccine GLS-6150.

Last month, Inovio dosed the first patient in a phase I/II analysis, evaluating its HIV vaccine Pennvax-GP’s ability to result in remission of HIV. The vaccine targets all major HIV strains with a potential capacity to improve the human immune system and control HIV without antiretroviral therapy.

In June, Inovio began a phase I/II study to appraise the safety, immunogenicity and preliminary efficacy of INO-5401 combined with Regeneron’s REGN cemiplimab on participants suffering glioblastoma, which is newly diagnosed.

Zacks Rank & Stocks to Consider

Inovio currently carries a Zacks Rank #2 (Buy). Other two top-ranked stocks in the healthcare sector are Gilead Sciences, Inc. GILD and Illumina, Inc. ILMN, both sporting a Zacks Rank #1 (Strong Buy). You can see the complete list of today’s Zacks #1 Rank stocks here.

Gilead Sciences’ earnings estimates have been moved 7.5% north for 2018 and 1.9% for 2019 over the past 60 days. The stock has gained 1.7% year to date.

Illumina’s earnings estimates have been revised 12.1% upward for 2018 and 10% for 2019 over the past 60 days. The stock has soared 59.2% so far this year.

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