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EXCLUSIVE: Tonix Pharmaceuticals CEO Highlights Advantages Of Company's Monkeypox Vaccine In Development

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Tonix Pharmaceuticals Holding Corp (NASDAQ: TNXP) shares are soaring Monday after the World Health Organization (WHO) declared monkeypox a public health emergency of global concern. Tonix's TNX-801 is being developed as a vaccine to protect against monkeypox.

"We already have very compelling data showing protection of monkeys against the lethal challenge of monkeypox," Tonix CEO Seth Lederman said Monday on Benzinga's YouTube show "Stock Market Movers."

What To Know: The rare designation is the highest alert level the WHO uses and shows that the organization believes a quick international response is necessary to stop the spread of the virus from escalating further.

There have been 16,000 reported monkeypox cases from 75 countries and territories, and five deaths, according to a statement from WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

"Although I am declaring a public health emergency of international concern, for the moment this is an outbreak that is concentrated among men who have sex with men, especially those with multiple sexual partners," the director general said.

"That means that this is an outbreak that can be stopped with the right strategies in the right groups."

Why It Matters: Tonix could be involved in helping to prevent an outbreak. Monkeypox is a rare disease with symptoms that are similar to smallpox, but milder.

There are currently two vaccines that are approved for smallpox, but the Tonix CEO believes the company's live virus TNX-801 has its advantages.

"Ours is designed to have better tolerability," Lederman told Benzinga.

"We think it can be produced at scale and can be shipped and stored in means that are much easier than people have become familiar with in the mRNA vaccines," he added.

Monkeypox didn't emerge until smallpox vaccinations stopped, Lederman said: "That's, I think, a lesson for the world."

The Tonix CEO believes that the spread of monkeypox in humans can be stopped by reintroducing widespread live virus vaccination, which is possible with TNX-801 approval.

"We believe this will be a one shot vaccination and that it should provide long-lasting immunity," Lederman said. "We're not aware of other companies developing next-gen live virus vaccines for smallpox and monkeypox. So we think that we're very unique."

Lederman believes the live virus vaccine has shown real-world evidence of its ability to provide lifelong protection and block forward transmission.

Tonix ended the first quarter debt free with $140 million in cash. Lederman told Benzinga that the company is well positioned to continue development of TNX-801 without cash constraints in the short term.

"We're really excited to charge forward and to meet this crisis head on," he said.

See the full interview with the Tonix CEO here:

TNXP Price Action: Tonix has a 52-week high of $4.79 and a 52-week low of 9 cents.

The stock was up 44.5% at $1.72 at time of publication.

Photo: NIAID from Flickr.

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