Inovio (INO -4.25%) is partnering with the International Vaccine Institute and Seoul National University Hospital to run a phase 1/2 clinical trial of Inovio's COVID-19 vaccine INO-4800 in South Korea. The study, which is scheduled to begin later this month, will start with 40 participants and then expand into an additional 120 participants.

The study is being funded through a $6.9 million grant from the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations. The Korea Center for Disease Control and Prevention/Korea National Institute of Health is also supporting the clinical trial.

In April, Inovio started a phase 1 clinical trial in the U.S. and expects to have data from the study by the end of this month. Assuming INO-4800 can generate neutralizing antibodies, Inovio plans to run a phase 2/3 study starting in July or August.

The duplication of the clinical trials in the U.S. and South Korea is likely due to the fact that people of Asian descent sometimes respond to treatments differently than other ethnicities. Many regulatory agencies in Asian countries require a separate study in Asians to gain approval for drugs.

Gloved hands giving an injection into a shoulder

Image source: Getty Images.

Inovio is trailing Moderna (MRNA -3.36%), which has already released some phase 1 data for its COVID-19 vaccine mRNA-1273. Moderna started a phase 2 study for the vaccine earlier this month and plans to launch a phase 3 study in July.

Fortunately for Inovio and the rest of the vaccine makers trailing Moderna, there should be plenty of potential patients available even if Moderna wins the race, since the company will likely be supply constrained as it ramps up production of mRNA-1273.