What happened

Shares of Inovio Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ:INO) were soaring 19.7% higher as of 11:07 a.m. EST on Friday. The big jump came after Oppenheimer analyst Hartaj Singh initiated coverage on Inovio with an outperform rating. Singh also set a $35 price target for the stock.

So what

It's not a good idea to buy a biotech stock just because a Wall Street analyst likes it. However, it is a good idea to learn why an analyst is so bullish. So why does Oppenheimer's Singh think Inovio could more than double within the next 12 months?

COVID-19 vaccine and syringe on top of a rising stock chart

Image source: Getty Images.

Perhaps most importantly, Singh really likes the potential for Inovio's COVID-19 vaccine candidate INO-4800. He wrote to investors that the experimental vaccine has a "differentiated profile" than other COVID-19 vaccines, especially with regards to its safety and tolerability. Singh believes that Inovio is making good progress toward potentially winning Emergency Use Authorization.

He's also intrigued by Inovio's INO-5401. The biotech is currently evaluating the experimental vaccine in a phase 2 study targeting glioblastoma, an aggressive type of brain cancer. Singh stated that INO-5401 is a "unique cancer vaccine with intriguing early stage efficacy."

The Oppenheimer analyst could be exactly right about Inovio. However, the biotech's pipeline candidates still have several hurdles to jump.  

Now what

While Inovio has several irons in the fire, the most important thing to watch with the company right now is the progress for INO-4800. The COVID-19 vaccine candidate is being evaluated in a phase 2 study. Inovio still must resolve questions raised by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) about its Cellectra 2000 delivery device for the vaccine before it will be able to advance INO-4800 into phase 3 testing.

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.