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Another Shot on Goal to Fight COVID-19

Theresa Brady
Theresa Brady
May 15, 2020

This is the second post in our series, Biotechnology: Beyond Imagination, which highlights the technology and scientific advancements of BIO Digital participating companies and BIO member companies. Today’s feature focuses on INOVIO and its work to find a vaccine for COVID-19.

Beyond Imagination Member Spotlight: INOVIO 

Researchers across the globe are working to find solutions – preventative and therapeutic – to address today’s greatest health threat, COVID-19. Among them are the scientists at INOVIO  a company that is focused on providing DNA medicines to treat and prevent infectious diseases like COVID-19, HPV-related diseases and cancers. 

The company created its innovative DNA vaccine candidate, INO-4800, composed of optimized DNA plasmids, based on the genetic sequence of the virus that causes COVID-19. 

 

Clinical Trials Underway

As the vaccine entered Phase 1 clinical trials in April 2020, Dr. J. Joseph Kim, INOVIO's President and CEO, addressed the importance of the vaccine.

“This is a significant step forward in the global fight against COVID-19. Without a new safe and effective vaccine, the COVID-19 pandemic is likely to continue to threaten lives and livelihoods,” said Kim. “Our dedicated team of staff, partners and funders have been mobilized since the genetic sequence of the virus became available in early January and continues to work around the clock to ensure that we are rapidly advancing INO-4800 through this Phase 1 study towards planned efficacy trials.”

In Phase 1, the safety and immune responses of INO-4800 are being tested on 40 hand-picked, healthy volunteers. Each participant will be given two doses of the medicine, four weeks apart, with data on the results expected by late June 2020. If successful, the vaccine will move to a larger Phase 2/3 efficacy trial.

INOVIO"s DNA medicine platform allows medicines to be developed and manufactured more quickly than traditional vaccines and offers more stability as the products do not require freezing in storage and transport.

INOVIO Senior Vice President, R&D, Kate Broderick spoke about how INOVIO quickly moved from DNA sequencing of the virus to vaccine: “On Jan. 10, we get the sequencing, three hours later we have a vaccine. One of the differentiating factors is that DNA medicine can be manufactured very quickly. It allows us to get into the clinic in a few short months as we have done.”

When administering the vaccine, INOVIO uses a proprietary hand-held, smart device called CELLECTRA, which which uses a brief electrical pulse to reversibly open small pores in the cell to allow the plasmids to enter, overcoming a key limitation of DNA and other nucleic acid approaches, such as mRNA. Once inside the cell, the DNA plasmids enable the cell to produce the targeted antigen. The antigen is processed naturally in the cell and triggers the desired T cell and antibody-mediated immune responses.

As the INOVIO team continues clinical trials for its COVID-19 DNA vaccine, as well as for other DNA medicines to treat or prevent other illnesses, BIO is pleased to continue its support for the team’s innovative, groundbreaking research. To learn more, visit bio.org/coronavirus.  

Registered attendees of BIO Digital can learn more about the industry’s response to COVID-19 through several Infectious Disease and Vaccine sessions. Attendees can also connect with cutting edge companies like Inovio through BIO’s One-on-One Partnering™ system.