Shares of Inovio Pharmaceuticals (INO -3.12%) were up by 10.4% as of 12:41 p.m. EDT on Thursday. There was no company-specific news that drove the stock higher, but Inovio's shares have more than tripled since the beginning of the year due to its efforts to develop a vaccine for COVID-19. Today's gains are likely a continuation of that trend. 

So what?

Inovio has been racing through the early stages of the development of its potential COVID-19 vaccine, INO-4800. The company claimed that on Jan. 10, it created INO-4800 in three hours after Chinese researchers publicly released the genetic sequence of the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19. On April 6, Inovio started a phase 1 clinical trial for its investigational COVID-19 vaccine.

The trial will involve up to 40 healthy adult volunteers who will each receive two doses of the vaccine four weeks apart. The goals of the trial are to test the vaccine's safety and its ability to trigger an immune response in the body. Inovio expects data from this trial by late summer.

A note on a clipboard that says "coronavirus" with a check mark.

Image source: Getty Images.

Now what?

Investors are hopeful that Inovio will make a fortune off of its investigational COVID-19. However, the biotech company remains a risky bet. Inovio has no approved products on the market, and there's no guarantee that its potential vaccine for COVID-19 will ever earn regulatory approval, much less that it will be the only one to do so. In short, betting that Inovio's current efforts to develop a COVID-19 vaccine will pan out is, at this point, a long shot.