What happened

Shares of Inovio Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ:INO) were sliding 5.2% lower as of 3:45 p.m. EST on Friday. The company announced earlier in the day that positive results from a phase 2 study evaluating INO-5401 and INO-9012 in combination with cancer immunotherapy Libtayo will be presented at the Society for Neuro-Oncology (SNO) 2020 Annual Meeting.

Normally, positive results from a clinical study serve as a positive catalyst for a biotech stock like Inovio. And Inovio's share price did jump 5% in early trading on Friday. However, when the overall market falls as it did today, it's hard for individual stocks to swim against the tide. In addition, investors appear to be much more heavily focused on Inovio's COVID-19 program than anything else right now.

Scientist looking through a microscope

Image source: Getty Images.

So what

Despite today's sell-off, Inovio's results for the INO-5401/INO-9012/Libtayo combo were quite good. The company reported a 70% survival rate after 18 months for one group of patients with glioblastoma, an aggressive type of brain cancer. It also announced a 50% survival rate after 18 months for patients in a group that had a more difficult-to-treat type of glioblastoma.

Sometimes poor safety results can overshadow positive efficacy data. That wasn't the case with Inovio's data, though. The biotech stated that the combo of INO-5401 and INO-9012 "demonstrated a well-tolerated safety profile" when given with radiation and chemotherapy drug temozolomide as well as with Libtayo.

Investors still weren't impressed enough, however, to drive the stock higher. Perhaps the best way for Inovio to change investors' sentiment is to deliver stellar results for its COVID-19 vaccine candidate INO-4800 in phase 2 testing.

Now what

Inovio recently began the phase 2 study of INO-4800, which is being funded by the U.S. Department of Defense. The FDA allowed the study to begin after placing a partial clinical hold on the biotech's planned phase 2/3 study. The phase 3 portion of the study remains on partial clinical hold. Inovio plans to address the FDA's questions about its Cellectra 2000 device used to administer INO-4800 while the phase 2 trial is in progress. The phase 2 study evaluating INO-5401 and INO-9012 will also continue, with Inovio expecting to announce additional data in the coming months.

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