The numbers didn't look very good for Inovio Pharmaceuticals Inc. (NASDAQ:INO) when it announced its fourth-quarter results in March. Revenue fell by 28% year over year while its net loss worsened. But that's par for the course for a clinical-stage biotech.

The company announced its first-quarter results after the market closed on Thursday. Here are the highlights from Inovio's Q1 update.

Two people in lab coats taking notes and holding test tubes.

Image source: Getty Images.

By the numbers

Inovio's top-line performance improved in the first quarter. Revenue jumped to nearly 87% year over year to $2.8 million. Analysts estimated that the company's revenue for the first quarter would come in at $6.41 million.

The company reported a first-quarter net loss of $29.2 million, or $0.30 per share, on a GAAP basis, compared to a net loss of $32.4 million, or $0.36 per share, in the same period in 2018. Wall Street analysts were expecting a Q1 net loss of $0.26 per share.

Inovio ended the first quarter with cash, cash equivalents, and short-term investments of $128 million. This was an increase from the $81.2 million on hand as of March 31, 2019.

Behind the numbers

Inovio doesn't have any products on the market yet. All of its revenue comes from collaborations and grants. The company's revenue increase in the first quarter was due mainly to a milestone payment received as part of its collaboration with big pharma company AstraZeneca.

Inovio's bottom line improved in the first quarter compared to the prior-year period in large part because of the higher revenue. The company also cut costs -- total operating expenses fell 8.5% year over year to $31.4 million. The biggest contributor to this decrease was lower general and administrative expenses.

Other highlights from the company's first-quarter update include:

  • Inovio's experimental drug VGX-3100 was granted an Advanced Therapy Medicinal Product certificate by the European Medicines Agency's (EMA) committee.
  • VGX-3100 was selected in April as the 2019 "Best Therapeutic Vaccine" at the World Vaccine Congress.
  • Completed enrollment of the phase 1/2 study evaluating INO-5401 in treating patients with newly diagnosed glioblastoma (GBM).
  • Presented preclinical results for the company's DNA-encoded bi-specific T cell engagers (dBiTEs) technology at the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) meeting.
  • Dosed the first patient in the initial clinical study evaluating the company's DNA-encoded monoclonal antibody (dMAb) technology in treating the Zika virus.
  • Former Merck Vaccines executive Simon Benito was appointed chairman of Inovio's board of directors.

Looking ahead

Inovio should soon complete full enrollment for its Reveal 1 phase 3 study of VGX-3100 in treating cervical dysplasia caused by human papillomavirus (HPV). The company also anticipates reporting interim data from the two phase 2 studies of VGX-3100 in treating patients with vulvar and anal dysplasia later in 2019.

There should be more news for INO-5401 on the way as well. Inovio anticipates reporting interim results from its phase 1/2 study of INO-5401 in combination with Regeneron's Libtayo before the end of this year.