Following an announcement that the FDA granted approval to initiate a Phase 1 trial of Zika drug GLS-5700, analyst Ram Selvaraju of Rodman & Renshaw dived into the implications this will have for Inovio Pharmaceuticals, Inc. (NASDAQ:INO), the biotech company behind the new drug.
This news is garnering a lot of attention as fears surrounding the Zika virus, a mosquito-borne virus linked to severe birth defects, have captivated the public ahead of the Summer Olympics, scheduled to take place in Brazil.
The upcoming Phase 1 trial will be the first-ever human trial of a vaccine targeting Zika and is scheduled to test 40 healthy subjects. The test will begin in a few weeks and will test the safety, immunogenicity, and efficacy of the pipeline drug.
Selvaraju feels that the need for a Zika virus vaccine is becoming more urgent by the day. The CDC has identified 234 cases of pregnant women infected with Zika in the U.S. Out of these pregnancies, three babies were born with birth defects associated to Zika and three babies died due to miscarriages. Additionally, the CDC has been preparing for localized outbreaks of Zika in the U.S this summer when the amount of mosquitoes increases.
Several companies have begun developing a vaccine to fight the Zika virus, but Selvaraju believes there are several factors that indicate Inovio has the ability to produce a more effective drug in a swifter manner than its competitors. First, Inovio has sufficient capital to finish the study quickly. The analyst expects Phase 2 trials to begin as soon as 2017. Furthermore, when Inovio did preclinical studies the drug caused “robust antibody and T cell responses in both small and large animal models.” Lastly, Inovio’s DNA vaccine design platform technology, SynCon, allows Inovio to produce vaccines faster than other companies which was evident in its development of its Ebola and MERS vaccines. Thanks to these advantages, the analyst remains confident that Inovio will remain at the forefront of the race to fight Zika.
Following these updates, the analyst reiterates his Buy rating on Inovio with a price target of $17, marking a 49% increase from current levels.
According to TipRanks, Ram Selvaraju has a success rate of 43% and an average annual loss of -0.6% per recommendation.
As of this writing, all the 3 analysts who have rated the stock in the past 3 months gave it a Buy rating. The average 12-month price target for the stock is $14.67, marking a 29% upside from current levels.