Inovio Pharmaceuticals Reports Positive Trial Data for Cancer Vaccine

Inovio Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: INO), which has become famous for the exceptionally rapid development of its candidate COVID-19 vaccine, reported data for its lead vaccine candidate, VGX-3100, which treats anal dysplasia, a precancerous condition caused by human papillomavirus (HPV) types 16 and 18.

An interim look at the first 20 patients in the phase 2 clinical trial showed half of the patients had clearance of HPV-16/18 associated precancerous lesions, and 75% had a decrease in the number of lesions after 6 months. None of the patients had advanced to anal cancer. The results will be presented at a virtual session of the annual American Society for Colposcopy and Cervical Pathology.

Anal dysplasia lesions can be removed through surgery, electro-cautery or laser therapy, but they recur in up to half of patients within one year of treatment, and nearly 70% have recurrences within three years. In theory, VGX-3100 should induce the immune system to create antibodies to HPV-16/18 and protect patients from getting anal dysplasia again, but Inovio will have to follow patients for many years to confirm that's the case.

Doctor talking to a man in an exam room.

Image source: Getty Images.

VGX-3100 was created using the same DNA technology that Inovio used to design its COVID-19 vaccine. Its synthesized DNA plasmids are delivered directly into the patient's cells, causing those cells to express viral proteins (antigens). Their own immune systems then recognize the proteins as foreign and mount an antibody response.

While this clinical trial data offers further evidence that Inovio's vaccine platform works -- the biotech has also shown VGX-3100 works in HPV-16/18 cervical dysplasia -- investors should keep in mind that there are two steps in the process of making a successful DNA vaccine: getting the cells to express the viral protein, and having a viral protein that will promote an immune response that protects patients from the virus.

The VGX-3100 results suggest Inovio's COVID-19 vaccine will also be able to cause human cells to express the intended viral proteins, but in order for it to work, the company will have to have picked the right protein to create an immune response. Fortunately, Inovio has some experience working with coronaviruses -- it developed a vaccine for Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS), which is caused by a different coronavirus.

10 stocks we like better than Inovio Pharmaceuticals
When investing geniuses David and Tom Gardner have a stock tip, it can pay to listen. After all, the newsletter they have run for over a decade, Motley Fool Stock Advisor, has tripled the market.*

David and Tom just revealed what they believe are the ten best stocks for investors to buy right now... and Inovio Pharmaceuticals wasn't one of them! That's right -- they think these 10 stocks are even better buys.

See the 10 stocks


*Stock Advisor returns as of March 18, 2020


Brian Orelli and The Motley Fool have no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

In This Story


Latest Markets Videos

The Motley Fool

Founded in 1993 in Alexandria, VA., by brothers David and Tom Gardner, The Motley Fool is a multimedia financial-services company dedicated to building the world's greatest investment community. Reaching millions of people each month through its website, books, newspaper column, radio show, television appearances, and subscription newsletter services, The Motley Fool champions shareholder values and advocates tirelessly for the individual investor. The company's name was taken from Shakespeare, whose wise fools both instructed and amused, and could speak the truth to the king -- without getting their heads lopped off.

Learn More