Inovio Pharmaceuticals (INO -2.37%) has been a leader in the race to develop a vaccine for SARS-CoV-2, the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19. The company recently started a phase 1 clinical trial for its investigational vaccine, INO-4800. The trial will involve up to 40 healthy adult volunteers and will test the safety of INO-4800, as well as its ability to trigger an immune response in the body. Inovio expects to start collecting data from the trial by late summer.

Now, it's gearing up to start a phase 1/2 clinical trial in South Korea for the vaccine candidate with help from a $6.9 million grant it received from the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI). The biotech company will team up with the International Vaccine Institute -- which will lead the trial -- and the Korea National Institute of Health. Inovio's shares jumped by about 8% following this news.

Microscopic view of coronavirus.

Image Source: Getty Images.

This wasn't the first grant Inovio received to help fund its development of a SARS-CoV-2 vaccine. The company had previously won a grant of up to $9 million from the CEPI. Also, back in March, Inovio partnered with Ology Bioservices -- a privately held biotechnology company -- and the two had jointly received a grant of $11.9 million from the Department of Defense to expedite their ability to ramp up production of INO-4800. 

Given that there are at least 70 SARS-CoV-2 vaccine candidates currently in development, including three that are already in early-stage clinical trials, Inovio will need all the help it can get if it hopes to be the first company to demonstrate that its vaccine successfully prevents COVID-19.