What happened

Inovio Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ:INO) shares climbed 22.6% in May, according to data from S&P Global Market Intelligence, as investors cheered the rapid development of its coronavirus vaccine and as the company published positive preclinical data.

Inovio in late April said it completed enrollment of 40 healthy volunteers in a phase 1 trial for its coronavirus vaccine and said it expects preliminary data in late June. The company last month announced the publication of preclinical data showing strong neutralizing antibody and T-cell immune responses in animal models.

A mask with coronavirus written on it is shown against a red background.

Image source: Getty Images.

So what

Inovio is among 10 companies and research institutions that have brought a vaccine for COVID-19, the illness caused by the novel coronavirus, into clinical testing. More than 100 candidates are in preclinical testing.

Since there currently isn't an approved treatment or cure for COVID-19, hopes for a vaccine are high. The Trump administration recently announced Operation Warp Speed, an initiative to accelerate the development of a coronavirus vaccine with a goal of bringing one to market by January. For Inovio, the successful commercialization of a coronavirus vaccine not only would fulfill this unmet need but also would give the clinical-stage biotech company its first marketed product.

Now what

All eyes will be on the early data from Inovio's phase 1 trial later this month. Investors will want to be on the lookout for information on neutralizing antibodies, as they are the type of antibodies that block infection. It also will be important to see if participants experienced any adverse effects and how significant any might be.

Inovio faces competitors, such as Moderna (NASDAQ:MRNA), which started human studies earlier and is already beginning a phase 2 trial. Though speed is a significant element on the minds of governments, researchers, and investors, quality of the results is ultimately the most important element as that is what will lead to an eventual approval. And there is probably room for more than one winner in this race. Because of the great need globally, more than one player would make providing a vaccine to everyone much easier.

Though Inovio's shares have climbed 335% so far this year, any positive data from the current trial and possible phase 2 trial may push shares of this biotech company higher.