Inovio Pharmaceuticals Inc (NASDAQ:INO) announced that the first patient has been dosed in a phase I trial to evaluate safety and tolerability of PENNVAX®-GP, Inovio’s “universal” DNA vaccine for HIV. This human study is in collaboration with the HIV Vaccine Trials Network (HVTN). The trial will measure immune responses following administration of the vaccine in four groups of healthy subjects receiving the vaccine with and without an immune activator (IL-12) and delivered into muscle or skin using Inovio’s CELLECTRA® delivery technology. This study is conducted by the HVTN and funded by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

Development of the PENNVAX-GP vaccine, which targets multiple clades of HIV—providing global coverage—has been funded through a $25 million NIAID contract awarded to Inovio and its collaborators. Earlier this year, Inovio and its collaborators were awarded a five-year $16 million Integrated Preclinical/Clinical AIDS Vaccine Development (IPCAVD) grant from NIAID. This new five-year program grant was awarded based on a peer-reviewed meritorious proposal by Dr. David Weiner, from the University of Pennsylvania and chair of Inovio’s scientific advisory board, and Inovio.

Dr. J. Joseph Kim, President and CEO, said, “This latest HIV vaccine trial will allow us to test our universal HIV vaccine, with the potential to provide protection against viruses from all major global clades. This is a major step forward in extending our clinical experience with the PENNVAX platform and the innovation developed from our previous PENNVAX human trials. We are confident that the results of this trial will advance our previous findings that demonstrated best-in-class cellular immune responses. Inovio looks forward to continuing our long-standing and fruitful collaborations with both NIAID and HVTN.”

Results from the previous PENNVAX phase I trial, HVTN 080, were published in Journal of Infectious Diseases in 2013 and showed that 89% (24/27) of subjects developed a robust CD4 or CD8 response. In addition, immune response rates remained strong and persistent six months after vaccination. Achieving a robust CD8 T-cell response in a significant number of patients had been a previous barrier for HIV researchers. Importantly, PENNVAX was able to generate CD8 T-cell responses with significant magnitude as measured by the HVTN core laboratory at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center, whose assays have been standardized to evaluate several different vaccine delivery technologies. Notably, CD4 and CD8 T-cells are both important in cellular immunity, however, CD8 T-cells are considered especially integral to fighting cancers and chronic infectious diseases. The PENNVAX-GP product was developed as a universal HIV vaccine to expand and improve the coverage of the earlier version of PENNVAX against multiple divergent virus strains and clades across the globe. (Original Source)

Shares of Inovio Pharmaceuticals closed last Friday at $7.11. 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 $7.26 and its 200-day moving average is $8.14.

On the ratings front, Inovio has been the subject of a number of recent research reports. In a report issued on August 10, Brean Murray Carret analyst Jonathan Aschoff reiterated a Buy rating on INO, with a price target of $20, which implies an upside of 181.3% from current levels. Separately, on the same day, Piper Jaffray’s Charles Duncan reiterated a Buy rating on the stock and has a price target of $31.

According to, which ranks over 7,500 financial analysts and bloggers to gauge the performance of their past recommendations, Jonathan Aschoff and Charles Duncan have a total average return of 5.0% and 7.5% respectively. Aschoff has a success rate of 43.1% and is ranked #635 out of 3747 analysts, while Duncan has a success rate of 51.6% and is ranked #769.

The street is mostly Bullish on INO stock. Out of 4 analysts who cover the stock, 4 suggest a Buy rating. The 12-month average price target assigned to the stock is $20.00, which implies an upside of 181% from current levels.

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.