2020 is turning out to be a tale of two halves for Inovio Pharmaceuticals (INO).
The vaccine maker's valuation increased 10-fold between January and early July, backed by vigorous coronavirus tailwinds. As one of several companies taking the fight to COVID-19, investors cheered the early development of its COVID-19 DNA vaccine candidate, INO-4800.
However, sentiment has soured recently, as analysts and investors have questioned whether Inovio’s offering can go the distance against its weightier rivals. Over the past month, the share price has declined by 30%.
As a company with no product to sell (Inovio’s candidates are all still in development), investors’ focus was squarely on its programs’ progress, specifically INO-4800. Although the company expanded somewhat on the previously published data from INO-4800’s Phase 1 study (38 out of 38 patients in the study achieved overall immunological responses, compared to 34 out of 36 patients in the first June update), the presentation once again failed to impress, leaving more questions unanswered.
Additionally, the Phase 2/3 clinical study, which was initially expected to kick off this summer, has now been pushed back to September, leaving Inovio’s COVID-19 vaccine program with even more catching up to do.
The latest developments have done nothing to alter H.C. Wainwright analyst Ram Selvaraju’s thesis. The 5-star analyst stays on the sidelines with a Neutral rating and said, “We currently do not have a price target for INO shares due to market valuation and volatility. Our prior 12-month $17 price target was derived from an estimated market value of the firm at $2.44 billion, which includes a discounted cash flow based asset value of $2.54 billion for VGX-3100 (Inovio’s candidate for the treatment of HPV-related cervical pre-cancer with Phase 3 trial data expected in Q4) and INO-4800, with 80% and 30% probabilities of approval.” (To watch Selvaraju’s track record, click here)
Selvaraju’s take gets the rest of the Street’s backing. Based on 2 Buys, 5 Holds and 1 Sell, Inovio has a Hold consensus rating. However, following the recent pullback, according to the $15.60 average price target, the analysts expect an 8% premium to be added over the next 12 months. (See Inovio stock analysis on TipRanks)
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