Inovio & OncoSec Retain Higher Valuations, More Data Anticipated Soon Print E-mail
By Brian Wilson-Lead Contributor   
Monday, 09 September 2013 00:28
Market activity has once again started to pick up for the two electroporation and DNA plasmid-based companies on our radar: Inovio Pharmaceuticals (NYSE: INO) and OncoSec Medical (ONCS). Both have had positive reactions to clinical (and preclinical) data releases earlier in the summer, have held significantly higher valuations on the markets, and are on track for further events that could draw investor interest within the next months.

Although the two companies are targeting difficult drug indications with different therapies, both Inovio and Oncosec use DNA molecules known as plasmids to induce an effect in certain cells. The delivery of this genetic material is mediated by a process known as electroporation, which increases the permeability of cell membranes through application of an electric current. While the process is generally unpleasant for patients, it is safe and significantly improves the efficacy of plasmid-based therapies. This has been demonstrated repeatedly in preclinical and clinical trials performed by Inovio, OncoSec, and other entities. Inovio’s proprietary electroporation device is known as CELLECTRA®. OncoSec’s device is called the OncoSec Medical System™.

Since the two companies are developing novel treatments based on technology that has not seen use in a clinical setting, the market has been (and remains) worried about late-stage clinical development. This creates a high risk high reward opportunity for investors willing to go long in anticipation of future data releases. Current trials suggest that the science is working as intended, although many drugs have fared poorly after late stage trials due to surprising reductions in statistical efficacy.

Upcoming data is discussed below, along with explanation on the status of each company.


INO really entered the spotlight in July 2013, following the publication of full, peer-reviewed data from two Phase I trials – HVTN 070 and HVTN 080, in the Journal of Infectious Diseases. These trials were designed to test the safety of a plasmid-based HIV vaccine called PENNVAX®-B , delivered with a DNA adjuvant and CELLECTRA. PENNVAX induced a strong T-cell response in 89% of the patients that had received three doses of the vaccine plus a signaling protein called Interleukin-12, inducing a best-in-class immune system response against HIV.

The link between Human papillomavirus (HPV) and cervical cancer has been well established with past research, although significant unmet demand still remains for more effective vaccines to prevent cervical dysplasia caused by HPV in patients that already contracted the virus. Current treatment is limited to HPV prevention. The VGX-3100 program aims to prevent cervical cancer by inducing a strong immune response against precancerous cells that have been mutated by a HPV infection. The activated T-cells may be able to eliminate – or at least cause regression in cervical cancer.

Phase II data for the VGX-3100 program is expected in the first quarter of 2014, which will provide more data on the extent of the immune response induced by the VGX-3100 DNA construct and the CELLECTRA electroporation device.

Phase II data for the VGX-3100 program is expected in the first quarter of 2014, which will provide more data on the extent of the immune response induced by the VGX-3100 DNA construct and the CELLECTRA electroporation device.


ImmunoPulse is the name OncoSec uses to refer to the therapy that was developed using the OMS with a plasmid designed to code for Interleukin-12. IL-12, which was mentioned earlier, is a signaling protein that plays a vital role the body’s natural immune system response. ImmunoPulse is currently being developed for three separate indications: late-stage melanoma, Merkel cell carcinoma (MCC), and cutaneous T-cell Lymphoma. These are all in Phase II development, although it’s worth noting that the melanoma indication is the furthest developed of the three and has recently completed enrollment for its 25-patient trials.

We expect full data from the melanoma trial before the end of the year, although Q1 2014 seems possible as well. This binary event should have a very significant impact on the stock, since the melanoma indication is the “flagship” indication at this time. We suspect that the Merkel Cell Carcinoma (MCC) indication could become equally, if not more important. This depends on data that should be released next year.

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