Shares of Inovio Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ:INO), a clinical-stage biopharmaceutical company that's focused on developing immunotherapies to treat cancer and vaccines to counter global infectious diseases, surged higher by 10% in October, based on data from S&P Capital IQ, after the company announced that it had moved forward with a vaccine designed to treat Middle East respiratory syndrome, or MERS.

You may recall that this summer South Korea had an outbreak of MERS which wound up infecting 186 people, eventually killing 36. Predominantly confined to Saudi Arabia, MERS has infected more than 1,500 people around the world since 2012, killing around 40% of the people it infects. The disease is caused by the coronavirus, a similar virus that was responsible for severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) last decade. MERS has no cure or vaccine at the moment.

In mid-October, Inovio and its collaborative partner, GeneOne Life Science, announced that they'd filed for an investigational new drug application with the Food and Drug Administration for GLS-5300, their proposed MERS vaccine. If approved, phase 1 studies of the vaccine would be expected to begin before the end of the year.

In prior preclinical work GLS-5300 provided 100% protection from a live virus in mice, camels, and monkeys.


Image source: U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Following the drubbing Inovio took in September over fears of prescription drug reform -- Inovio's work on cancer immunotherapies is likely to lead to pricey therapies if approved -- this IND filing and subsequent 10% gain are welcome news for shareholders.

Not to lose sight of the prize, though, Inovio's cancer immunotherapy pipeline is really where the bread and butter are. In 2016, we should be privy to data on a phase 1 study of INO-1400 for breast, lung, and pancreatic cancer, INO-3106 for aerodigestive cancer caused by human papillomavirus type 6, and interim data from studies on INO-3112 for cervical and head and neck cancer. Biotech stocks are driven by clinical results, and investors are likely to see a bounty of data out of Inovio next year. 

Inovio is also sporting a substantial amount of cash and cash equivalents thanks to stock offerings and recent collaborations. With cash concerns off the table for at least the next couple of years, clinical data could provide a spark for Inovio's share in 2016 that may lift its stock higher.

Sean Williams has no material interest in any companies mentioned in this article. You can follow him on CAPS under the screen name TMFUltraLong, track every pick he makes under the screen name TrackUltraLong, and check him out on Twitter, where he goes by the handle @TMFUltraLong.

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