What happened

Inovio Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ:INO), a clinical-stage DNA vaccine company, lost 10% of its value in December, according to data from S&P Global Market Intelligence. As the company maintained radio silence last month in terms of major clinical or regulatory updates, this downward trend appears to be the result of nothing more than tax-loss selling. Inovio's shares, after all, fell by a whopping 40.5% in 2017, making it a prime candidate to sell for tax reasons.   

Chalkboard chart showing a negative trend.

Image source: Getty Images.

So what 

Why did Inovio perform so poorly last year? The culprit seems to be the company's excruciatingly slow development of its lead clinical candidate, VGX-3100, as a potential treatment for cervical dysplasia caused by human papillomavirus. In short, Inovio took three full years simply to initiate a pivotal-stage trial for VGX-3100. Meanwhile, the company has consistently burned through loads of cash, and repeatedly tapped the public markets for capital. That's not a promising recipe for creating value for shareholders. 

Now what

Unfortunately, Inovio doesn't appear primed for a comeback in 2018. At its current pace, the biotech is set to run out of cash in early 2019 -- meaning that yet another capital raise is probably coming down the pike later this year. Inovio's VGX-3100 also won't report top-line results until late 2019 or early 2020. So, in the absence of a new licensing deal or an unexpected update regarding its collaboration with AstraZeneca, there's no obvious reason for this stock to change course in 2018. As such, investors may want to watch this novel vaccine maker from the safety of the sidelines.

This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis -- even one of our own -- helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.