The race to develop a vaccine against COVID-19 is charging full speed ahead.
Yesterday, Inovio Pharmaceuticals (INO) released promising preclinical data for the biotech’s COVID-19 DNA vaccine candidate, INO-4800. Investors have high hopes for the vaccine maker and have sent the stock soaring by over 332% so far this year.
The results, published in Nature Communications, showed INO-4800 elicited strong binding and neutralizing antibody responses in addition to high-level T cell responses in mice and guinea pigs.
INO-4800 targets the major antigen spike protein of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, which causes COVID-19, and is currently in a Phase 1 trial. 40 healthy volunteers are taking part, with interim data expected in June.
With data in hand, Inovio will approach the FDA for authorization to move forward with a Phase 2/3 trial, which it hopes to initiate in July or August. The company expects to recruit 2,000 frontline healthcare workers for the Phase 2/3 study.
“We believe data from this randomized trial, if positive, could allow the company to file for emergency regulatory approval for INO-4800,” said H.C. Wainwright’s Ram Selvaraju.
Additionally, Inovio will examine the vaccine in larger animals including rabbits and monkeys. The company will conduct "challenge" studies, which involve giving the virus to an animal and then seeing if the vaccine prevents the infection.
“In our view, these animal data bode well for the upcoming data from multiple animal challenge studies and data readout from the ongoing Phase 1 study in June,” Selvaraju added.
It should come as no surprise, then, that the 5-star analyst reiterated a Buy rating on Inovio, accompanied by a $17 price target. There’s upside of 22% in the cards, should the target be met over the next 12 months. (To watch Selvaraju’s track record, click here)
Over the last three months, 8 analysts have thrown the hat in with a view on the vaccine maker’s prospects, with 5 recommending Buy and 3 saying Hold. This makes the consensus rating a Moderate Buy. Overall, the Street sees upside potential of 18% ahead, as the average price target comes in at $16.57. (See Inovio stock analysis on TipRanks)