At the height of the novel coronavirus vaccine bubble in June 2020, Inovio Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ:INO) stock traded as high as $33.79. The at less than $15 for Inovio will disappoint those who bought shares on its way down.
Are markets making a mistake after forgetting about Inovio’s positive preclinical results posted on July 30?
INO Stock Drops After Vaccine Data
Inovio announced that its DNA vaccine to Covid-19, INO-4800, protected non-human primates from the virus. The vaccine showed durable antibody and T-cell responses. Its non-human subjects, rhesus macaques, is a species of monkey that should have some similarities with humans. The company challenged the subjects with live virus 13 weeks after the last vaccination. It observed a T- and B-cell immune response.
Scientists saw that viral loads fell in both the lower lungs and nasal passages. The subjects received two doses at 1 mg four weeks apart. After a single vaccination, the animals developed an antibody that was detectable in their bloodstreams.
By challenging animals weeks after vaccination instead of at their peak immune response, Inovio is mimicking a real-world scenario with how people might get exposed. The results suggest that INO-4800 is a potential vaccine solution that the world needs.
Inovio is getting less investor attention because its competition is winning production deals first. For example, Novavax and AstraZeneca (NYSE:AZN) signed a deal to supply vaccines to Japan. These deals are more like a memorandum of understanding. Neither AstraZeneca nor Novavax have an approved vaccine.
Similarly, Moderna (NASDAQ:MRNA), whose shares peaked at $95.21 only to close recently at $74, is signing similar deals. The Swiss government signed an agreement with Moderna. Switzerland secured early access by getting 4.5 million doses of the vaccine. At two doses per patient, it would protect 2.25 million people.
On Aug. 11, Russia announced approval of the first Covid-19 vaccine, although the drug still hasn’t completed clinical trials.
Investors are understandably cautious with Inovio’s potential vaccine sales at this time. The company did not secure contract manufacturing for the vaccine. It sued its manufacturing partner VGXI, accusing it of withholding technical knowledge.
Unlike with Moderna and Novavax, which secured massive funding from government, Inovio received “only” $71 million from the Department of Defense. The DoD will support the large-scale manufacturer of CELLECTRA #PSP. This is a smart device used to deliver INO-4800.
By comparison, Moderna received another $472 million for vaccine development from the U.S. government’s Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA). Novavax received $1.6 billion funding from the government from Operation Warp Speed.
The average analyst price target on Inovio is $23.20 (per Stockrover). Analysts estimate that sales will grow by 1355%. Conversely, the fair value (based on enterprise value to sales) is $29.17. This gives the stock a margin of safety of 45%.
The chart above suggests that the stock will find support at its 50-day moving average at $20. If bears continue to sell, the sharp drop in the moving average convergence divergence signals more downside ahead. Inovio could trade at below $15 near its 150-day moving average.
The Covid-19 vaccine race is heating up. The winners today earned the most funding and have the advantage, for now. Things may change quickly. Moderna and Novavax may not have as effective a vaccine as Inovio. Investors betting on this will get rewarded by investing in INO shares instead.
Clinical results from all vaccine developers will give investors more clarity in the coming weeks. Any good news will drive the value of INO stock and its competitors higher. Just as easily possible is that any bad news would hurt their valuations.
Disclosure: As of this writing, the author did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities.