Inovio Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ:INO) stock isn't anywhere near its lofty levels set this summer. However, investors probably won't complain about a year-to-date gain of close to 170%.  

The biotech had an opportunity for a catalyst when it announced third-quarter results after the market closed on Monday. Here are the highlights from Inovio's Q3 update.

A scientist filing a vial with a dropper with surrounding DNA models.

Image Source: Getty Images.

By the numbers

Inovio reported revenue of $236,178 in the third quarter, down from $866,863 in the prior-year period. This result was well below the average analyst estimate of $3.05 million.

The company announced Q3 net income of $19.2 million, or $0.11 per share, based on generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP). In the third quarter of 2019, Inovio posted a net loss of $23.1 million, or $0.25 per share. The consensus analyst estimate was for a net loss of $0.19 per share.

Inovio ended the third quarter with cash, cash equivalents, and short-term investments of $337.2 million, reflecting a major increase from the $89.5 million on hand as of Dec. 31, 2019.

Behind the numbers

Quite frankly, Inovio's top- and bottom-line numbers don't matter very much at this point. Its revenue stems in large part from research and development collaborations. It's doubtful that anyone will even raise an eyebrow at the Q3 revenue miss.

Don't get too excited about that seemingly great profit in the third quarter, either. It was mainly due to a $35.3 million change in the fair value of a derivative liability with its August 2019 convertible bonds. Each quarter, this derivative liability is revalued. When Inovio's shares rise, the liability increases. When the biotech stock drops, as it did in the third quarter, the liability decreases, making Inovio's bottom line look better. In addition, Inovio recorded a $27 million gain on the sale of its investment in GeneOne.

What would Inovio's bottom line have been without all these twists? The company would have recorded a net loss of $43.1 million, or $0.26 per share -- worse than what analysts expected. Again, though, Inovio's failure to hit analyst estimates isn't likely to create much angst.

What matters for Inovio

Although Inovio's financial performance in the third quarter doesn't really matter, its pipeline status does. November will be a crucial month for the company on the pipeline front.

Inovio has answered questions from the FDA that prompted the partial clinical hold for a planned late-stage study of COVID-19 vaccine candidate INO-4800. The company is now awaiting the FDA's response, which should come this month. CEO Joseph Kim stated that Inovio is "continuing with our partners to plan and prepare for the next stages of development" in the meantime. 

The biotech will present data for INO-5401 in treating glioblastoma at the 2020 Society for Neuro-Oncology Annual Meeting on Nov. 20, 2020. Looking further ahead, Inovio expects to report results from a late-stage study of VGX-3100 in treating cervical dysplasia in the first half of 2021.

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