What happened

The price of Inovio Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ:INO) shares jumped by 22.8% in June, according to S&P Global Market Intelligence. Although some of those gains have been wiped away already in July, the rally added to an upsurge that began to take shape in May following updates on the company's COVID-19 vaccine development efforts.

So what

The timing is a bit complicated.

While shares of Inovio Pharmaceuticals soared in 2020 when it was viewed as a coronavirus vaccine contender, the stock is now down 75% from last June's peak because other pharmaceutical companies' vaccines beat its candidate to market. The stock's proverbial death blow materialized in April, when the U.S. government finally pulled its funding from Inovio's late-stage trials of its flagship vaccine candidate, INO-4800.

Man's hand plotting a rising bar chart on a chalkboard.

Image source: Getty Images.

In some regards though, this plunge also served as a capitulation, setting the stage for a rebound.

The catalyst for that rebound came in mid-May. That's when the company introduced a different COVID-19 vaccine candidate, INO-4802, which it designed to be more effective against the new strains of concern that have evolved since the earliest vaccines were developed. In the meantime, while the U.S. government may no longer be helping fund trials for INO-4800, Inovio is continuing its development. It has expanded its partnership with Advaccine Biopharmaceuticals Suzhou, and the two companies will begin a global phase 3 trial of INO-4800 before the end of summer.

News of the collaboration with Advaccine surfaced in mid-June, driving the bulk of last month's share price gain. Bear in mind, though, that the steep sell-off that took place last year left the stock ripe for a sizable rally.

Now what

Kudos to Inovio Pharmaceuticals for being able to respond so quickly to the shifting landscape of the pandemic. There's still a market for more solutions, given how quickly variants of concern have been evolving. It's conceivable that COVID-19 may never truly be "beaten," even if it can be globally curbed. Also bear in mind that this biopharma company has four non-COVID drug trials underway, and those candidates should present longer-lasting revenue opportunities.

Given that Inovio is essentially a pre-revenue company, though -- with no clarity as to when or even if any of its coronavirus efforts will be monetized -- this is a stock best left to speculators. The fact that it's also become something of a meme stock only makes it an even more unpredictable asset. Tread lightly here if you must tread at all, despite what appear to be upbeat headlines.

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.