Inovio To Conduct Phase-3 Trials Of COVID-19 Vaccine Outside the US As US Govt Stops Funding

Inovio said on Friday that the biotechnology company focused on deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) medicine is planning to conduct the Phase-3 trial of its COVID-19 vaccine candidate, INO-4800, outside the United States.

Inovio (INO) also said that the US Government’s Department of Defense (DoD) will discontinue the funding for the Phase-3 trial of the vaccine, but will continue the funding of the currently ongoing Phase-2 segment of the trial.

According to Inovio, the Defense Joint Program Executive Office for Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear Defense (JPEO-CBRND) informed the company, “The decision results from the changing environment of COVID-19 with the rapid deployment of vaccines. This decision is not a reflection of the awardee or product, rather a fast-moving environment associated with the former Operation Warp Speed on decisions related to future products.”

INO-4800 is the company’s COVID-19 vaccine candidate that delivers optimized plasmids directly to the cells of a body through a “proprietary smart device”.  According to INO, this is the only vaccine that is nucleic-acid based and can be stable at 37 degrees Celsius for more than a month, at room temperature for a period of more than a year and has a shelf life of five years at normal refrigeration temperature. (See Inovio stock analysis on TipRanks)

Following the announcement, Oppenheimer analyst Hartaj Singh reiterated a Buy and a price target of $35 on the stock. Singh said in a note to investors, “We spoke briefly with management regarding the press release put out earlier today. Inovio assured us that the government has no insight on the ongoing Phase 2/3 trial, which is randomized and blinded.”

“Recent data from INO-4800 against COVID-19 variants adds to our belief that INO’s vaccine is safe and effective; which it should demonstrate in the Phase 2 update of the trial, planned shortly. In a counterintuitive way, we think that this release by the US Government could give INO significant flexibility on issues of timing, deployment, intellectual property and profitability for INO-4800,” Singh added.

Shares of INO have crashed 22.3% in the past five days.

Overall, consensus on the Street is that INO is a Moderate Buy based on 2 Buys and 4 Holds. The average analyst price target of $16.60 implies that the stock has upside potential of 142.3% to current levels.

According to the TipRanks Smart Score system, INO scores a low 1 out of 10 indicating that the stock is likely to underperform the market.

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