There's a real buzz around Inovio Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: INO ) .
Indeed, shares have have risen from $0.72 one year ago to $2.82 at the time of writing. That's a gain of 291%. I don't need to tell you that the major U.S. indices posted gains that were only fractions of that amount over the same period.
Moreover, much of that gain has come the last eight months or so, and the buzz surrounding Inovio Pharmaceuticals culminated in the company being invited by the New York Stock Exchange to ring the opening bell on Feb. 12.
Much of the hype surrounding Inovio has to do with the future -- more specifically, the potential catalysts for the stock. Here are three that could be worth keeping an eye on throughout 2014 (this list is not exhaustive).
1. The exclusive worldwide partnership with Roche to develop and commercialize products from Inovio Pharmaceuticals' prostate cancer and hepatitis B immunotherapy programs appears to be making encouraging progress. Although Inovio remains tight-lipped about the identity of other large pharmaceutical companies with whom it is in discussions, those discussions are ongoing and further news is likely to surface during the year.
2. Although Inovio manages a relatively broad portfolio of immunotherapies, its lead program remains focused on cancer immunotherapy. Efficacy data from the phase 2 trial of this program is due to be released in the second or third quarter of this year and could have a major impact on the stock price.
3. Inovio expects to update the market throughout the year on both its prostate cancer and hepatitis B therapies with Roche, but also initiate several new clinical trials for cancer immunotherapies. Updates from these trials could impact the stock price, too.
Of course, Inovio Pharmaceuticals isn't the only stock garnering some buzz in 2014. Other health care companies that are focused on immunotherapies have also seen their share prices deliver notable movements, with two obvious examples being ImmunoCellular Therapeutics (NYSEMKT: IMUC ) and Galena Biopharma (NASDAQ: GALE ) .
ImmunoCellular Therapeutics has seen its share price move from roughly $0.92 at the start of the year to $1.21 as of the closing bell Wednesday, although it should be noted that it reached as high as $1.56 before pulling back. As with Inovio, the company has numerous potential catalysts for the year ahead, including a meeting with the FDA to discuss phase 2 results for its lead product candidate, the brain cancer treatment ICT-107, as well as a decision from the European Medicines Agency on whether ICT-107 will be granted an orphan designation.
Meanwhile, Galena Biopharma's share price is at the same level as it was on New Year's Eve. However, this doesn't tell the whole story because the stock has been as much as 50% higher as a result of the company's deal to purchase Mills Pharmaceuticals for $200 million, a strategic partnership for breast cancer drug NeuVax in India, and positive updates surrounding a phase 2 trial for cancer immunotherapy GALE-301.
It could be worth keeping an eye on all three immunotherapy-focused companies. With the buzz surrounding its current share price and the three catalysts mentioned above, 2014 could be a very interesting year for Inovio Pharmaceuticals in particular.
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