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Inovio Shares Rally As Oppenheimer Says Coronavirus Vaccine Developer Approaching Finish Line

Inovio Shares Rally As Oppenheimer Says Coronavirus Vaccine Developer Approaching Finish Line

Shares of coronavirus vaccine developer Inovio Pharmaceuticals Inc (NASDAQ: INO) were surging Friday after a vote of confidence from the Street. 

Bullish Analyst, Fund Stake Prop Up Stock: Oppenheimer analyst Hartaj Singh initiated coverage of Inovio shares with an Outperform rating and $35 price target in a Thursday note. 

Although current mRNA vaccines have set a high efficacy bar in Phase 3 settings, INO-4800 has a differentiated profile, with a better safety and tolerability profile; longer shelf-life and easier storage; and potential flexibility to adjust for mutations and boosting, the analyst said.

Inovio's deep expertise and decades-long history in DNA science, he said, could bring the company to the "finish line" soon, in a fashion similar to mRNA-based vaccines.

Singh is also left impressed with the rest of Inovio's pipeline and its execution over the last 12 months.

The analyst highlighted Inovio's unique cancer vaccine candidate INO-5401.

It has intriguing early-stage efficacy in a hard-to-treat cancer, namely glioblastoma, and an HPV-targeted DNA vaccine candidate, codenamed VGX-3100, has a Phase 3 readout scheduled for the first half of 2021 in high-grade cervical dysplasia, Singh said. 

Inovio's stock is set up well, with value-driving catalysts approaching, according to Oppenheimer. 

"In our view, INO-4800 could potentially make INO break-even in 2022, and its newsflow could 'turbo-charge' the platform value growth." 

Separately, 13G filings done in the the last two days showed that State Street Corp had 8.895 million shares in Inovio, giving it a 5.25% stake.

Vanguard Group held about 9.186 million shares, or a 5.42% stake, and Wasatch Advisors beneficially owned 3.93 million shares, or a 2.3% stake in the company.

The Invoio Stock Trajectory: Inovio shares peaked at $33.79 in late June 2020 amid progress in the company's vaccine program. The company began developing a DNA vaccine codenamed INO-4800 against the novel coronavirus in January 2020, with claims of having successfully developed the vaccine construct in three hours after receiving the genetic sequence from Chinese researchers.

Following successful preclinical testing, the company commenced a Phase 1 study in the U.S. in early April. It was followed up by the initiation of CEPI-funded Phase 1/2 study of the vaccine candidate in South Korea in early June.

The company announced positive interim readout from the U.S. Phase 1 study June 30, and the June 26 high was in anticipation of the readout.

The rally began to lose steam thereafter, and a partial clinical hold imposed by the FDA on the start of the Phase 2/3 study on Sept. 28 pressured the stock further. Inovio received the green light to proceed with the Phase 2 part of the trial in mid-November.

After trading at sub-$10 levels for much of January, the stock began gathering some momentum in February.

Related Link: The Week Ahead In Biotech (Feb. 7-13): Regeneron FDA Decision, Earnings, IPOs and Conference Presentations In The Spotlight

INO Price Action: At last check, Inovio shares were rallying 9.42% to $14.22. 

Related Link: The Daily Biotech Pulse: European Regulatory Nod For Xeris, Amicus Falls On Data, 4 IPOs, FDA Decision For Mallinckrodt's StrataGraft Delayed

Latest Ratings for INO

Mar 2021B of A SecuritiesInitiates Coverage OnNeutral
Feb 2021OppenheimerInitiates Coverage OnOutperform
Nov 2020Roth CapitalDowngradesNeutralSell

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