What happened?

Shares of the biotech Inovio Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ:INO) are rising sharply today, up by 5.9% as of 12:23 p.m. EDT, despite the company not reporting any news. But with the company down by nearly 29% over the past five days alone, it seems reasonable to assume that investors think now is a good time to scoop up Inovio's shares for a discount. 

So what

Inovio released its second-quarter financial report on Aug. 10. The big story from the company's earnings release was an update regarding its efforts to develop a vaccine for COVID-19. Inovio reported that in a phase 1 clinical trial, all of the participants demonstrated immune responses after receiving its experimental vaccine, INO-4800. In particular, about 90% of the study's participants generated strong T cell responses. Also, Inovio's candidate performed well in a non-human primate study as part of Operation Warp Speed.

Doctor holding a glass vial with a sign that says "COVID-19 vaccine coronavirus."

Image source: Getty Images.

INO-4800 prevented infections from the SARS-CoV-2 virus -- the virus that causes COVID-19 -- in rhesus macaques 13 weeks after the last vaccination. Inovio plans on starting a phase 2/3 clinical trial this summer. With this potential catalyst on the way, some investors believe that the company will recover from its recent poor performances on the stock market. 

Now what

Inovio's stock will continue to be volatile moving forward. The progress of its COVID-19 program will spell good news for its shareholders, but several things could send its stock tumbling, including the work of other biotechs in the COVID-19 battle. For that reason, Inovio remains a high-risk, high-reward play. Those who can stomach the risk and decide to initiate a position in the company could rack up solid gains between now and the end of the year. 

This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis -- even one of our own -- helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.