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Inovio Pharmaceuticals on Tuesday said that its investigational Covid-19 vaccine had “positive” results in a small trial. But the company, which has gained more than $4 billion in value since the coronavirus pandemic began, provided none of the details necessary to determine whether the vaccine is working.

In a press release, Inovio said its vaccine led to “immunological response rates” in 34 of 36 patients in the trial, but did not disclose how many patients produced antibodies that neutralize the coronavirus — data key to determining whether the vaccine could protect against infection. The company did not immediately respond to a request for more information.

The company’s press release appeared to play down the importance of neutralizing antibodies, pointing to a study that found roughly one-third of patients who recovered from Covid-19 had no detectable antibodies in their blood.

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Kathryn Edwards, scientific director of the Vanderbilt Vaccine Research Program in Nashville, Tenn., said Inovio’s vaccine appears to be safe enough to merit further study, but without more data on patient responses, it’s impossible to say whether it might have any beneficial effect.

Inovio was early to announce plans to develop a vaccine against the novel coronavirus, boosting its stock price tenfold before producing any clinical data. Its enterprise value started the year at $300 million but grew to $4.5 billion on the hope that its coronavirus vaccine work would lead to a successful product. The stock fell 13% to $27.50 in early Tuesday trading following the release of the early vaccine results.

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Since the dawn of the coronavirus pandemic, drug companies have been racing to develop treatments and vaccines that might halt the global crisis. Data from clinical trials have come in dribs and drabs, often delivered by press release rather than the exhaustive, peer-reviewed research that has long been the scientific norm.

Moderna, widely considered the leader in the vaccine race, drew criticism from experts last month when it issued a press release describing its vaccine in qualitative terms rather than providing hard data. However, unlike Inovio, Moderna disclosed how many patients developed neutralizing antibodies.

Both companies have promised to publish their data in full in peer-reviewed medical journals.

Inovio’s vaccine works by injecting synthetic DNA that codes for protective antibodies, technology developed at the lab of David Weiner of the Wistar Institute in Philadelphia. Like Moderna, which uses synthetic mRNA, Inovio’s method doesn’t require administering a live virus, potentially making it faster and cheaper to manufacture.

The company said it would advance its vaccine into larger trials later this summer “upon regulatory concurrence.”

Helen Branswell contributed reporting.

  • Did all the nitpicking you want. Leaks are that they could be releasing full data as online reprint, as soon as this weekend!

  • Seems like you guys have been working for the hedge funds and reporting scientific data with a spin. As you guys did for remdesivir and pumped the market based on inaccurate and false data for your advantage, you guys did the same on Inovio to help shorts and hedge funds. I am thinking this is the only way you get funding rather than helping the science community

  • PR’s from these companies seem suspiciously more about jacking up their stock prices in an environment especially conducive for that than about indicating s solid scalable way to produce a reliable vaccine.

  • Pfizer and BioNTech released their data today with just as little information. Where is the article criticizing them? Peer reviews and data releases normally take so much longer.

    Everyone is wanting to fast forward trials at this point. No wonder these companies are trying to get anything out at all right now.

  • Reporting that 34 out of 36 participants had the desired reaction to the vaccine certainly beats Moderna’s meagre 8 out of 45 “results” 2 months ago – and despite their “full data in a couple of weeks” there is still nothing. Seems that Inovio is disclosing better / more than Moderna, and that now Inovio ought to get the same well-over-6-weeks leeway just like Moderna. STAT’s negative spin to Inovio has no merit.

  • Inovio could quite easily have provided more detail on the number of subjects with humoral (with breakdown for neutralising antibodies) and cellular responses. Instead they just say 94% of subjects had one or other of them – pretty meaningly less if all bar one or two subjects have T cell responses or neutralising antibodies. They then go on to refer back to the data they generated for their MERS vaccine as a crutch to suggest the data from this vaccine will be the same. If it is as good report the data. STAT have done nothing other than to poke holes where holes needed to be poked. Given the criticism Moderna have received for communicating preliminary data (probably forced on them by Moncef Slaoui’s public gaff), I’m surprised Inovio have gone down this route. I’m also surprised by comments from senior staff that seem to make claims that embellish their technology. First, all the mRNA technologies will be equally capable of generating cellular and humoral responses. Secondly, do they know for a fact that other vaccines can’t be stored at room temperature? I’m pretty sure that they aren’t privvy to those data. In their defence this STAT article suggests their vaccine encodes for neutralising antibodies – this is just plain wrong.

  • Nonsense negative spin.

    You say ‘did not disclose how many patients produced antibodies that neutralize the coronavirus’

    In the PR – Analyses to date have shown that 94% (34 out of 36 total trial participants) demonstrated overall immunological response rates based on preliminary data assessing humoral (binding and neutralizing) and T cell immune responses.

    T cell response is just as if not more important than neutralizing antibodies for defeating covid. So 94% showed either the neutralizing (humoral) antibodies that you so crave, the more important T cell response or both.

    How you have managed to turn these results into a negative is quite frankly criminal.

    • This story neglects to mention the PR discussing the antibody response at the humoral (with neutralizing antibiodies) and T cell level. A peer review article would be published with time showing the research data. I would not expect a PR to show this data. The article does discuss stock price and valuation in detail. STAT does not seem very reputable in its own writing as it appears to have conflicts with stock valuations rather than meaningful issues with medical data. Let me guess, non-physicians and non-Phd authors?

  • Non-issue. You expected R value, T-test and a graph in a PR?
    What’s the COI of the authors?

    • I suspect their interest, like many of us, is in seeing some meaningful data from these vaccine companies instead of empty press releases and waiting weeks and months for a publication in a peer reviewed journal. All for peer reviewed journals, but if nobody is publishing data, it makes it a bit difficult for others to understand what actually might work best for this critical effort.

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