What happened

Shares of Inovio Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ:INO) are up 14.8% at 12:16 p.m. EST after the Food and Drug Administration accepted its application to start a phase 1/2 clinical trial testing INO-3107 in a clinical trial of patients with recurrent respiratory papillomatosis.

So what

Recurrent respiratory papillomatosis is caused by infection with the human papillomavirus (HPV), which forms noncancerous tumors that grow large enough that they block the patient's airway and have to be surgically removed. Unfortunately the surgery usually doesn't remove all of the tumor, which then regrows, requiring that surgery be repeated, often multiple times a year. The disease can also progress to full-blown cancer in some cases.

INO-3107 is essentially a vaccine that generates an immune response to two strains of HPV that cause recurrent respiratory papillomatosis. The biotech ran a pilot study of an earlier version called INO-3106 that targeted only one strain of HPV. Two patients in the study, who had required approximately two surgeries per year, were able to delay surgery by 584 days and 915 days, respectively, after taking INO-3106.

Doctor listening to a patient's chest with a stethoscope

Image source: Getty Images.

Now what

Moving a drug into the clinic is certainly good news, but it's only the start of the marathon that is drug development and doesn't justify today's double-digit move.

Inovio Pharmaceuticals is probably rising today also because there doesn't appear to be an end in sight for the 2019-nCoV coronavirus outbreak. A couple of weeks ago, the biotech announced that it had received a grant from the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations to develop INO-4800, a vaccine agaisnt 2019-nCoV. Unfortunately it isn't clear how long it may take for Inovio to get INO-4800 into the clinic, so investors should be careful ascribing too much value to the coronavirus program until a timeline is more apparent.

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