Interested in a cure for cancer? HIV? Hepatitis B? Influenza?
Inovio Pharmaceuticals Inc (NASDAQ:INO) has taken that hope on step further. It’s working on vaccines for all these.
And it’s getting pretty impressive results.
So much so that INO will receive anywhere between $45 million to $56 million in grant money from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency to work on ways to treat and prevent Ebola. (MedImmune, AstraZeneca plc (NYSE:AZN), the University of Pennsylvania, Emory University and Vanderbuilt University will also be in on the project.)
Now, this certainly would have done wonders for INO stock had this news come out last year during the Ebola scare. But that isn’t the way DARPA works; it’s not into headlines. It’s about doing cutting-edge research well that will change the way we live.
Remember, DARPA’s little thing called DARPAnet? No? You may recognize it by another name – the Internet.
And this is the second award for Inovio Pharmaceuticals from DARPA in the past six months. DARPA also tapped INO for a study on DNA-based monoclonal antibodies (mAbs) for three areas of infectious diseases. The goal of this study is to be able to react quickly (and cheaply) to stop the spread of virulent infectious diseases by using a person’s own immune system to develop synthetic antibodies to fight the virus.
Inovio has pulled in $135 million in similar funding since 2009. But it’s not the funding that makes INO stock so interesting right now.
It’s the fact that its bread and butter since the beginning — immunotherapy using vaccines and a unique drug deliver system — is now getting huge amounts of traction with cancer treatments.
Inovio Is Thinking Big and Wide
The basic premise is to get and individual’s body to learn to fight the cancer, virus or whatever invader on its own.
Recent work that has been featured broadly in various news programs on television is using an invert virus to target deadly glioblastoma brain cancer tumors by getting the bodies immune system (T-cells) to attack the cancer.
Inovio has been doing this work for many years, starting with a simple premise: If you can find a “mother” gene in a virus or cancer, you can then build one vaccine that can specifically target that gene. That means one vaccine can be effective against numerous viruses or cancers.
Researchers are increasingly finding that many cancers have the same genetic heritage; that means if you can break that gene sequence, you have a good chance against most cancers.
Viruses are slightly more difficult because they reproduce and modify themselves much quicker than a cancer does.
This also has crossover implications for INO regarding virus-based cancers like the human papillomavirus, or HPV, which is a leading cause of cervical cancer. Since it starts as a virus and turn into a cancer, INO’s unique approach has been getting some impressive attention.
Just last week, Inovio earned a prestigious industry award at the World Vaccine Congress in Washington, D.C. A panel of global biotech industry stakeholders awarded INO with “Best Therapeutic Vaccine” honors for its DNA-based immunotherapy, VGX-3100, which was designed to treat the HPV virus and cancers. From Inovio:
“In a large, controlled phase II efficacy trial Inovio reported top line data demonstrating regression of disease and clearance of the underlying cause of the condition — the HPV virus.
Inovio expects to publish the complete data set in a peer-reviewed journal this year, and has plans to advance VGX-3100 into a Phase III trial early next year. It has also expanded studies to include cervical and head and neck cancer.
And this was Inovio’s third straight year winning the award.
However, research — and especially FDA drug trials — don’t come cheap. And that has been the biggest weight on INO stock.
Now the company has $93 million in the bank, which will support its current burn rate until 2017, all things being equal. But a Phase III study is going to cost a pretty penny, so the question is: Where do you get the money for the trial?
A positive Phase III outcome would be a big winner for INO stock and its long-term prospects. But getting there is expensive.
However, the biotech’s growing list of promising results in various studies, its partnerships with big players like Roche Holding Ltd. (ADR) (OTCMKTS:RHHBY) and MedImmune and a growing interest in immunotherapy are all building to critical mass.
If you’re risk tolerant and like this space, INO stock is good buy at current prices.
If you’re not a risk taker, follow this company and keep tabs on the amazing advances that are going on in immunotherapy, and one day you can buy it when it’s a large-cap player.
As of this writing, Gregg Early did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities.
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