Short seller Citron Research also said the data is not new and renewed its call for the SEC to halt Inovio
Shares of Inovio Pharmaceuticals (INO) are on the rise on Wednesday after the company announced the publication of preclinical study data for IN0-4800, its COVID-19 DNA vaccine, demonstrating what Inovio called "robust" neutralizing antibody and T cell immune responses. Commenting on the announcement, Piper Sandler analyst Christopher Raymond argued that the data is "not new news," and noted that the preclinical picture remains incomplete without non-human primate data and viral challenge data.
STUDY DATA FOR INO-4800: Inovio announced the publication of the preclinical study data for IN0-4800, its COVID-19 DNA vaccine, demonstrating "robust" neutralizing antibody and T cell immune responses against coronavirus SARS-CoV-2. The study was published in the peer-reviewed journal Nature Communications by Inovio scientists and collaborators from The Wistar Institute, the University of Texas, Public Health England, Fudan University, and Advaccine.
Kate Broderick, Inovio's Senior VP of R&D and Team Lead for COVID-19 vaccine development, said that the "positive preclinical results from our COVID-19 DNA vaccine not only highlight the potency of our DNA medicines platform, but also build on our previously reported positive Phase 1/2a data from our vaccine against the coronavirus that causes MERS, which demonstrated near-100% seroconversion and neutralization from a similarly designed vaccine INO-4700. The potent neutralizing antibody and T cell immune responses generated in multiple animal models are supportive of our currently on-going INO-4800 clinical trials."
A Phase 2/3 efficacy trial is planned to start in July/August, pending regulatory approval, the company noted.
'LITTLE PERSPECTIVE': In a research note to investors, Piper Sandler analyst Christopher Raymond noted that Inovio shares were up by a double-digit percentage in morning trading following the Nature Communications publication of preclinical data on the company's CoV-19 DNA vaccine INO-4800, but argued that "this isn't new news." The market currently has a "buy-first-ask-questions-later mentality on all things COVID," but most of the data in this paper has been available since the pre-print in early March, Raymond contended.
Additionally, the analyst pointed out that while an ability to generate T-cell responses and functional neutralizing antibodies in mice and guinea pigs is important, the preclinical picture remains incomplete without non-human primate data and viral challenge data, which is needed to fully understand the potential. Raymond, who thinks it is more prudent to reserve judgment until initial human data slated for the end of June is available, keeps a Neutral rating on Inovio shares.
SEC SHOULD HALT INOVIO: "In a time where our country is facing its biggest health crisis in a century and investors are treating the stock markets like a casino, it should be the role of the SEC to protect investors from false prophets," Citron Research said in a new report on Inovio titled "Why the SEC has a 'robust' reason to halt Inovio immediately." The short seller noted that the stock has rallied on the publication of positive preclinical data but claimed "this information was already released in March" and that it is "not new news." In a tweet, Citron added that, "$INO issued 'robust preclinical' data in EVERY situation that has resulted in 0 products to market. Company has become a full stock promotion. Tgt price $2." Citron had previously called on the SEC to halt Inovio in a prior short report published on April 27.
PRICE ACTION: In late morning trading, shares of Inovio have advanced over 9% to $15.90.