Inovio Has Early Success with Zika Vaccine

Zika, a virus that can be spread through mosquito bites, sex and to a fetus from the pregnant mother, continues to be a global nuisance, especially throughout Central and South America and across Central Africa.

While most people will only have mild symptoms, such as fever, muscle pain and headache, Zika is a much more serious risk for expecting parents because a Zika infection during pregnancy can cause severe brain defects in the baby, namely microcephaly.

There are currently no therapies or vaccines approved for treating or preventing a Zika infection.

Shares of Inovio Pharmaceuticals, Inc. (NASDAQ: INO) are trading ahead in early Thursday action on news that the company released positive safety and immune response results from a phase 1 clinical trial of its Zika vaccine known as GLS-5700.

The DNA-based vaccine was shown to induce high levels of binding antibodies in all 40 patients in the study. The Plymouth Meeting, Pennsylvania-based company trumpets the results as the world’s first positive Zika vaccine data from a human trial.

The data was published in the New England Journal of Medicine in an article titled, "Safety and Immunogenicity of an Anti-Zika Virus DNA Vaccine" authored by Inovio researchers and collaborators. The latest publication follows other peer-reviewed articles in industry journals showcasing the positive effect of GLS-5700 in animal models.

The study enrolled 20 patients who received 1 mg of GLS-5700 and 20 patients who received a 2 mg dose, with both groups administered the vaccine by Inovio’s CELLECTRA 3P skin vaccine device. Following two doses, the vaccine elicited binding antibodies in 95% of patients, a figure that rose to 100% after three doses.

Serum samples were taken from vaccinated patients and injected into mice, which were subsequently injected with a lethal dose of the Zika virus. More than 90% of the mice were able to ward off the virus (no death or illness) with the serum in their system.

After closing Wednesday at $6.48, shares of INO gapped ahead to $6.93 at the opening bell, but have since slid back to $6.54 about 45 minutes into the session for a gain of 0.93%.