Why Inovio Pharmaceuticals Inc Stock Livened Up Today

A phase 2 trial success lifts hope around Wall Street for Inovio's HPV-fighting vaccine VGX-3100

Dan Carroll
Dan Carroll
Jul 23, 2014 at 2:20PM
Health Care

Although we don't believe in timing the market or panicking over market movements, we do like to keep an eye on big changes -- just in case they're material to our investing thesis.

What: Shares of Inovio Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ:INO), a clinical-stage biotech developer, jumped by more than 12.3% today after the company announced that its phase 2 trial of VGX-3100, a therapy designed to fight precancerous cervical lesions, succeeded in meeting its primary endpoints.

So What: VGX-3100 is designed to combat cervical dysplasia and other problems caused by the human papillomavirus, or HPV. Inovio chalked up a success doing just that in its clinical trial, reporting that more than 49% of patients treated with VGX-3100 saw a reduction of cervical intraepithelial neoplasia 2/3, or CIN2/3, fall back to levels of CIN1 or to no signs of the disease at all. In contrast, a placebo-treated group responded with a 30% reduction rate to those disease levels. Inovio also noted strong tolerance of the therapy by patients, with little in the way of side effects as compared to the placebo group.

Now What: The study success is a big win for Inovio, which boasts a handful of products in its pipeline but none as far along in development as VGX-3100. While today's positive note is no guarantee of approval for the therapy just yet, it goes a long way to helping Inovio's push for eventual approval – particularly in a market lacking a therapeutic offering to fight HPV.

As Inovio notes, both GlaxoSmithKline's Cervarix and Merck's Gardasil, major players in today's HPV market, prevent against the disease rather than treating it after it's set in, opening up a currently unmet niche for Inovio to capitalize on if it can keep up its success in this area going forward. With up to 400,000 cases of CIN2 and 3 cropping up each year in the U.S., VGX-3100 has the potential to make waves in the market: Analysts have pegged possible peak sales at $540 million or more, and given Gardasil's blockbuster success on the market, VGX-3100 could surprise with its upside if approved down the road.