Inovio Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ:INO) is making progress in its efforts to develop a vaccine for SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus that causes COVID-19. Shares of the biotech company closed up 70% on Tuesday on word that it could start a clinical trial next month.

Rather than using inactivated viruses like traditional vaccines, Inovio's platform uses DNA to express a protein from the virus in patients' cells. The immune system recognizes the protein as foreign and develops antibodies to it, in theory providing immunity if the patient is infected with the virus. The simplicity of that system allowed Inovio to design its vaccine, INO-4800, in three hours after the company gained access to the sequence of the novel coronavirus.

At the time, Inovio said it planed to start clinical testing as early as this summer. The increased spread of the disease has accelerated that timeline.

People on the sidewalk wearing masks

Image source: Getty Images.

The biotech has already started pre-clinical testing which will continue this month while it finalizes the clinical trial design. Inovio plans to manufacture 3,000 doses of its vaccine candidate this month to be used in clinical trials.

Inovio plans to start a clinical trial in 30 healthy volunteers in the U.S. next month with the thought to expand to people in China and South Korea shortly thereafter. Data from the studies would be available in the fall.

By the end of the year, Inovio is hoping to have 1 million doses of INO-4800 available for additional clinical trials or emergency use depending on what regulators want at that point.

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