No need to ask what issue currently sits at the top of global priority “to do” lists. Around the world, the search is on for a suitable vaccine to stop the coronavirus spreading any further. Naturally, on top of saving lives and the accompanying kudos, will come the monetary reward. So, the race is on to find a viable solution, with several healthcare companies hoping to emerge victorious. One of those is Inovio Pharmaceuticals (INO).
INO stock is up nearly 18% on the back of positive developments for its COVID-19 vaccination candidate. INO-4800 (the designated name for Inovio’s vaccine), will begin a phase 1 study in the US in April 2020. Originally slated for summer, the burgeoning nature of the coronavirus epidemic means the trials have been bought forward, so good news all around.
Inovio’s sturdiest competition in the race to market comes from fellow biotech Moderna Therapeutics (MRNA); mRNA-1273 is set to begin a phase 1 trial at the same time.
According to H.C. Wainwright’s Ram Selvaraju, Inovio has the edge for two reasons. The first relates to the fact that Inovio already has a proven track record in a clinical study against a different type of coronavirus – the MERS-CoV. Secondly, as Inovio’s offering is a DNA-based vaccine, there is no need for refrigeration or cold chain logistics. Additionally, Inovio’s proprietary injection device is battery-operated and highly portable.
Data is expected shortly on Inovio’s completed animal studies of INO-4800, of which Selvaraju believes results will be the same as previous observations generated when using INO-4700.
Further bolstering Inovio’s case, the company’s Chinese partner—Beijing Advaccine Biotechnology—could start a Phase 1 study in China at around the same time Inovio begin its trial in the US.
Following a recent meeting in the White House between Trump and executives of companies that are developing COVID-19 vaccines and therapies, it is believed a faster approval process will be put in place due to the urgent nature of the need for a vaccine.
Selvaraju noted, “We believe the current administration’s support for rapid development of vaccines and therapies in the U.S. could pave the way for an accelerated regulatory pathway to be made available by government agencies for the rapid market entry of such products that show conclusive efficacy against COVID-19. While we expect that the completion of clinical development for a vaccine against COVID-19 may still take 18-24 months, there appears to be a dwindling likelihood that the epidemic would end near-term and thus a prolonged need for effective vaccines and other therapeutic interventions ought to remain, in our view.”
As a result, Salvaraju reiterates a Buy rating on Inovio with a $13 price target. With Inovio currently trading at $5.10, the upside comes in at a hefty 154%. (To watch Selvaraju’s track record, click here)
All in all, Inovio receives the undivided backing of the street, too. 7 “buy” ratings add up to a Strong Buy consensus rating. At $9.43, the average price suggests possible gains of 86% in the year ahead. (See Inovio stock analysis on TipRanks)