What happened

Shares of the clinical-stage biotech Inovio Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ:INO) are up by a healthy 20.3%, on abnormally high volume, as of 10:40 a.m. EDT Tuesday. Today's double-digit rally appears to be carryover from CEO Dr. Joseph Kim's presentation yesterday at the H.C. Wainwright 22nd Annual Global Investment Conference. 

While Kim's presentation didn't exactly include any earth-shaking updates, he did note that a peer-reviewed paper should be forthcoming discussing the phase 1 trial results for the company's closely watched COVID-19 vaccine candidate, INO-4800. This first human trial included 40 healthy volunteers aged 18 to 50. Previously, Inovio announced that the vaccine produced either neutralizing antibodies or T-cell responses in all study participants. 

Close up image of the novel coronavirus.

Image source: Getty Images.

So what

Inovio's shares have been under immense pressure for the past three months. In fact, the drugmaker's stock has fallen by nearly 60% relative to its 52-week high posted back in June. Investors have backed away from Inovio's stock largely because the company has fallen behind the leaders in the hotly contested race to develop a safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine.

At yesterday's conference, however, Kim said that INO-4800's planned phase 2/3 trial should get clearance from the Food and Drug Administration soon. He also noted that he felt "very confident" this pivotal trial would receive external funding -- perhaps foreshadowing a large award from Operation Warp Speed in the near future. 

Now what

Should investors buy into this latest rally? Inovio is a risky biotech stock to be sure. But there's a decent chance that the biotech could indeed land a sizable award for its COVID-19 vaccine. So, if you're the risk-tolerant type, it might be worthwhile to buy a few shares ahead of this potential catalyst. 

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.