Inovio Pharmaceuticals Inc (NASDAQ:INO) announced it will advance its DNA vaccine for MERS (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome) into a phase I clinical trial in healthy volunteers in a collaboration with GeneOne Life Science Inc. (KSE: 011000), an international DNA vaccine developer and manufacturer in which Inovio holds an equity interest. MERS is a respiratory disease caused by a coronavirus, which is related to the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) virus. Currently, MERS carries a 40% death rate; there is no vaccine or effective treatment for this virus.

Inovio and GeneOne will conduct a phase I trial to evaluate the safety, tolerability and immunogenicity of Inovio’s DNA-based MERS vaccine. The companies are currently conducting pre-IND activities and plan to start the clinical study before year end. GeneOne will conduct and fund the clinical study in return for milestone-based co-ownership of the immunotherapy. Upon successful completion of the study, the companies plan to jointly seek additional third party support and resources to further develop and commercialize this product.

In preclinical tests, INO-4500 showed robust and durable immune responses. Animals vaccinated with INO-4500 generated strong neutralizing antibodies and robust CD8+ T cells to MERS antigens. These findings are vital given the importance of neutralizing antibodies in preventing infection and the role T cells play in clearing infection by killing cells that harbor the virus.

MERS was first identified in humans in 2012. By the end of May 2015, health ministries reported that 23 countries had a combined 1,142 cases of MERS and 465 deaths, almost all in four Middle Eastern countries. This month, South Korean health officials confirmed the country’s fifth confirmed case of MERS, with the four latest cases found in people who had been in contact with the first patient after he returned from the Middle East.

Inovio’s MERS vaccine was designed using Inovio’s SynCon® technology to provide broad protective antibody and T-cell responses against multiple strains of MERS virus. Inovio’s SynCon® technology has the ability to activate immune responses against multiple disease-specific antigens and elicit broad protection against diverse unmatched strains of pathogens in humans. These DNA-based immunotherapy products have shown a favorable safety profile in clinical studies to date.

Dr. J. Joseph Kim, President and CEO, said, “Inovio has again utilized its SynCon platform to generate a synthetic DNA immunotherapy candidate, INO-4500, that shows promise for providing an effective shield or treatment where there is none. What’s most impressive about our candidate vaccine is that it is designed with the goal to universally protect against multiple and newly emergent strains of MERS. In light of the rapid spread of the recent Ebola outbreak, we want to be proactive in assessing the immunogenicity and safety of our MERS immunotherapy and be prepared to advance this product against this deadly virus in a timely manner.” (Original Source)

Shares of Inovio Pharmaceuticals closed yesterday at $8.36 . INO has a 1-year high of $13.04 and a 1-year low of $6.33. The stock’s 50-day moving average is $9.11 and its 200-day moving average is $8.73.

On the ratings front, Inovio Pharmaceuticals has been the subject of a number of recent research reports. In a report issued on May 11, Brean Murray Carret analyst Jonathan Aschoff reiterated a Buy rating on INO, with a price target of $20, which represents a potential upside of 139.2% from where the stock is currently trading. Separately, on March 12, H.C. Wainwright’s Yi Chen initiated coverage with a Buy rating on the stock and has a price target of $17.

According to, which ranks over 7,500 financial analysts and bloggers to gauge the performance of their past recommendations, Jonathan Aschoff and Yi Chen have a total average return of 6.9% and 6.8% respectively. Aschoff has a success rate of 53.8% and is ranked #482 out of 3607 analysts, while Chen has a success rate of 66.7% and is ranked #1627.

Inovio Pharmaceuticals Inc is a clinical stage biopharmaceutical company. The Company develops active DNA immunotherapies and vaccines in combination with proprietary electroporation delivery devices to prevent and treat cancers and infectious diseases.