I’ll admit to being all over the map on Inovio Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ:INO). Earlier this year, I felt Inovio was an intriguing but dark horse vaccine candidate. Recently, I’ve written that INO stock is an overpriced also-ran. And with a stock that’s up over 600% for the year, it’s not outrageous to preach caution.
But one mistake I’ve been making is looking at the race for a vaccine as an actual race. In an actual race, there is only one winner. And if that was true of Inovio, than INO stock becomes much riskier.
However, I’ve learned there’s an intention to develop as many bites at the apple as possible. So recently, I’ve been trying to get more serious about looking at what these multiple companies bring to the table. Through that process, I’ve become a lot more bullish on Inovio.
Innovation Is in Inovio’s DNA
If you’re not familiar with Inovio, the company takes an innovative approach to vaccine development. Rather than giving patients a sample of the virus, the company is developing a DNA vaccine candidate, INO-4800.
Inovio is injecting patients with snippets of DNA that includes antigens for the novel coronavirus. The body processes these antigens. Then if the novel coronavirus enters the body, the vaccine creates a strong immune response.
This approach is what allowed Inovio to develop a vaccine candidate within hours of receiving the DNA sequence for the novel coronavirus. As Kim described it, it was a matter of extracting the DNA sequence for the spike protein.
It’s Not About Crossing the Finish Line First
Another mistake I’ve made was assuming that the pursuit of a vaccine would end with one successful candidate. But the intention is to, once again, develop multiple candidates. So, in this case, being right is more important than being first. Inovio may look like it’s behind other candidates such as Pfizer (NYSE:PFE) and Moderna (NASDAQ:MRNA). But in reality, all the company has to do is make sure they have a successful candidate.
And Inovio is enjoying some early success. The company has already completed a successful Phase 1 trial. Of 40 human volunteers (aged 18 to 50), the company found that the vaccine was well tolerated with no significant side effects. And 90% of participants developed a strong, balanced immune response. This included both antibody responses (proteins that provide immunity) and T-cell responses (immune cells that remember the virus).
On July 30, the company announced successful results of a nonhuman primate study for INO-4800. The vaccine protected the animals 13 weeks after vaccination. Inovio also notes the animals displayed mediated T- and B-cell immune responses.
Inovio is also conducting a separate nonhuman primate study at 12 months post-vaccination. The federal government’s Operation Warp Speed is funding the study.
Inovio Has Additional Catalysts
Developing a vaccine is the first hurdle. The next hurdle is getting the vaccine to scale. Inovio offers three key logistic advantages. First, the vaccine can be delivered at lower dosage levels. Second, it is easier to ship and store because it ships in simple refrigerators and can be left at room temperature for extended periods.
And third, the company’s Cellectra device is built for low dosage delivery. This makes it a much faster way to deliver the vaccine for massive population inoculation programs.
INO Stock Has Key Catalysts Coming Up
August is a big month for Inovio. The company reports earnings on August 10. But investors won’t be that concerned about the company’s financials. The key will be what the company has to say about the start of its Phase 2/3 trial. Investors will also be looking for guidance on the peer reviewed results of its positive Phase 1 trial.
The process of developing a vaccine is going faster than ever before. And it still will not be here as fast as we want. However, it’s becoming apparent that Inovio is not only farther along in the development process than I thought, but also is a serious contender to make it to the finish line. And that means that INO stock deserves serious consideration as a stock that still has room to run.
Chris Markoch is a freelance financial copywriter who has been covering the market for over five years. He has been writing for Investor Place since 2019. As of this writing, Chris Markoch did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities.