Inovio claims positive results with Covid-19 vaccine but key data missing

meBoyfriend Pharmaceuticals said Tuesday that its Covid-19 research 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, did not provide any of the details necessary to determine if the vaccine is working.

In a press release, Inovio said his vaccine led to “immune response rates” in 34 of 36 patients in the trial, but did not reveal how many patients produced antibodies that neutralize the coronavirus – data key to determine if the vaccine could protect against infection. The company did not immediately respond to a request for more information.

The company’s press release seemed to downplay the importance of neutralizing the antibodies, pointing to a study that found that about a third of the patients who recovered from Covid-19 had no detectable antibody in their blood.


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

Inovio came early to announce plans to develop a vaccine against the new coronavirus, increasing its stock price tenfold before producing clinical data. His business value started the year at $ 300 million, but grew to $ 4.5 billion in the hope that his coronavirus vaccine will lead to a successful product. The stock fell 13% to $ 27.50 in early trading Tuesday after the first vaccine results were released.


Since the dawn of the coronavirus pandemic, pharmaceutical companies have been competing to develop treatments and vaccines that can stop the global crisis. Data from clinical trials have come in dribbles and monotones, often delivered by press release rather than the extensive, peer-reviewed research that has long been the scientific norm.

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

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

The Inovio vaccine works by injecting synthetic DNA that encodes protective antibodies, a technology developed in David Weiner’s laboratory at the Wistar Institute in Philadelphia. Like Moderna, which uses synthetic mRNA, the Inovio method does not require administration of a live virus, which can make it faster and cheaper to manufacture.

The company said it would advance its vaccine in larger trials later this summer “with the regulatory agreement.”

Helen Branswell contributed reporting.