Investors who bought stocks during the COVID-19 market crash in 2020 have generally experienced some big gains in the past two and a half years.
But there was no question some big-name stocks performed better than others since the pandemic bottom.
Inovio's Bumpy Ride: One company that has been a disappointing investment is biotech stock Inovio Pharmaceuticals Inc INO.
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Almost all the headlines about Inovio in the past two years have been about the company’s COVID-19 vaccine candate. Investors had high hopes for it in 2020, when several companies were racing to be among the first to produce effective vaccinations against COVID-19.
Unfortunately, Inovio investors were thrown a curveball in September 2020 when the U.S. Food and Drug Administration placed a partial hold on phase 2 and 3 trials of Inovio’s INO-4800 vaccine candidate. At the time, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) had concerns about the trial and the device used to administer the vaccine to patients. The hold on the phase 2 trial was lifted after about six weeks, but the hold on the phase 3 trial lasted more than a year.
Finally, the FDA lifted the hold on the phase 3 study in November 2021, nearly a year after Moderna Inc MRNA, Pfizer Inc. PFE and Johnson & Johnson JNJ received the first batch of FDA approvals for COVID-19 vaccines.
Inovio initially attempted to pivot to continue to develop INO-4800 as a COVID-19 booster to pair with an authorized primary vaccine. However, the company pulled the plug on the INO-4800 booster development in October 2022, putting investors back at square one.
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At the beginning of 2020, Inovio shares were trading at around $3.39. Once the COVID-19 pandemic began, the stock traded as low as $3.14 on Feb. 7, 2020, before investors realized the potential upside Inovio could generate from a vaccine.
By the beginning of March, the stock was trading at $4.40 as news of the coronavirus spreading in China prompted concerns about a global pandemic.
When the market crashed during the U.S. COVID-19 outbreak in March 2020, Inovio shares understandably soared, along with a handful of other companies that began working on developing vaccines to fight COVID-19. In fact, Inovio shares hit a 52-week high of $19.36 in March before pulling back below $10 to finish out the month.
By June 2020, Inovio shares hit their pandemic high of $33.79 on vaccine optimism and positive initial research developments. However, the stock stalled there while Inovio and other competitors raced to win the vaccine testing and approval race.
Inovio shares pulled all the way back to under $10 again to finish 2020 after the FDA paused its vaccine trials.
Inovio In 2023, Beyond: Inovio bounced in late January 2021 during the frenzy of meme stock trading aimed at heavily shorted stocks. In February, Inovio shares peaked at $19 before resuming its downward trend.
Unfortunately, even after the FDA gave the phase 3 trials the green light in November 2021, Inovio shares failed to catch a bid, dropping to a new 52-week low of $5.59 in December and finishing the year near $5.80.
The selling pressure continued throughout 2022 as Inovio abandoned its booster development, and today the stock trades at around $1.58.
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Unfortunately, investors who bought Inovio on the day it hit its 2020 pandemic low and held on have generated a negative return on their investment. In fact, $1,000 in Inovio stock bought on Feb. 7, 2020, would be worth about $494 today.
Looking ahead, analysts are expecting Inovio's stock to recover in the next 12 months. The average price target among the four analysts covering the stock is $2, suggesting 27% upside from current levels.
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