Competition has always been a formula for excellence. While the axiom could be applied to any field, it has become particularly relevant when considering the urgent global need for a COVID-19 vaccine. There are currently 123 vaccines in development worldwide, and whoever crosses the finish line first with a solution, will gain possible financial rewards.

Biotech Inovio (INO) has positioned itself at the forefront of the race with its candidate, INO-4800. The market has responded enthusiastically, sending INO shares soaring over 200% in 2020. Yet, H.C. Wainwright analyst Ram Selvaraju argues the stock has a way to go.

The 5-star analyst reiterates a Buy rating on Inovio shares, along with a $17 price target. Investors could potentially see 43% gains, from current levels, should Selvaraju's thesis play out over the coming months. (To watch Selvaraju’s track record, click here)

Inovio’s COVID-19 DNA vaccine, INO-4800, is currently in a Phase 1 trial with interim data expected in June. A Phase 2/3 trial of INO-4800 is lined up for the summer and the company plans to have 1 million doses of the drug ready to go by the end of the year. Considering development only began in January, the speedy progress has been remarkable.

But Selvaraju points out there is another company making rapid progress with their COVID-19 vaccine program; Moderna (MRNA) is all also slated to commence a Phase 3 trial in the summer and has indicated a vaccine could be ready by the first half of next year. The competition is obviously good news for everyone, except for whoever crosses the finishing line in second place. However, Selvaraju believes that between the two, one might have the edge.

“We believe that Inovio and Moderna may effectively wind up running neck and neck; we also feel that Inovio's DNA vaccine platform could be considered to have certain advantages from an ease of manufacturing and storage standpoint vs. an mRNA vaccine,” Selvaraju said. "COVID-19 spread could persist in the coming quarters and INO-4800 could be used for vaccination across the globe if the Phase 2/3 study succeeds."

So, there’s H.C. Wainwright’s view, but what does the rest of the analyst fraternity think? All in all, the Street maintains a positive, although slightly more reserved stance. Based on 7 analysts tracked by TipRanks in the past 3 months, 4 rate INO a Buy, while 3 say Hold. Meanwhile, the 12-month average price target stands at $13.57, marking a nearly 14% upside from current levels. (See Inovio stock analysis on TipRanks)

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