Monday July 20 offered hope that the fight against the coronavirus might be progressing to the next stage. Interim data for AZD1222, a COVID-19 vaccine candidate AstraZeneca is developing with Oxford University, showed “strong” antibody and immune T-cell responses were generated in an ongoing Phase 1/2 trial.
So, what does this mean for other biotechs in the race to develop the coveted COVID-19 vaccine – namely high flying Inovio (INO)? Shares have surged by 722% so far this year, as investors have backed the company’s COVID-19 DNA vaccine candidate, INO-4800, hoping it can deliver the much-needed solution.
But while other vaccine programs have advanced, recent data for INO-4800 left much to be desired, with the murky information failing to provide insight regarding the program’s progress. Since then, sentiment has soured, with a number of Street analysts downgrading Inovio’s rating.
However, the race is far from over and it remains to be seen whether the biotech can ultimately deliver. A Phase 1/2 trial of INO-4800 has been initiated in South Korea – the first to take place in the country – and the full data from the Phase 1 U.S. trial should be published soon.
Despite the recent criticism and lower expectations, H.C. Wainwright analyst Ram Selvaraju argues that if successful, INO-4800 can take its place among others as a viable solution.
The 5-star analyst said, “In our view, multiple vaccines could ultimately enter the market; adoption rates could depend on the strength and duration of efficacy, safety profiles, ease of production and availability, stability in storage and transport, and pricing. We note that Inovio’s DNA vaccines have the advantage of remaining stable at room temperature for more than a year and do not need to be frozen in transport or storage, which is an important factor to consider for mass immunizations.”
Nevertheless, “market valuation and volatility” prohibit Selvaraju from setting a price target for Inovio, while he keeps his Neutral rating as is. (To watch Selvaraju’s track record, click here)
Selvaraju’s take is mirrored by the Street’s appraisal. Based on 2 Buy ratings, 5 Holds and 1 Sell, Inovio has a Hold consensus rating. With an average price target of $22, the analysts expect shares to stay range-bound over the next 12 months. (See Inovio stock-price forecast on TipRanks)
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