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This Company Boasted to Trump About Its Covid-19 Vaccine. Experts Are Skeptical.

Sunday, August 9, 2020

Inovio, a Pennsylvania biotech company, has spent years claiming to be on the cusp of important vaccines. It has never brought one to market.


As the deadly new virus spread globally, Inovio Pharmaceuticals, a small biotech company in Pennsylvania, rushed to develop a vaccine. After announcing promising early results, Inovio’s stock soared more than 1,000 percent. Riding the momentum, the company sold more shares to the public.
That was 2009, when H1N1, better known as swine flu, was stoking fears of a devastating pandemic. In the years since, Inovio has announced encouraging news about its work on vaccines for malaria, the Zika virus and even a “cancer vaccine.” The upbeat declarations have caused the company’s stock price to leap, enriching investors and senior executives.
There’s only one catch: Inovio has never actually brought a vaccine to market.
Now, with a new pandemic raging, Inovio is working on a new vaccine: for the novel coronavirus. A flurry of positive news releases about its funding and preliminary results have sent Inovio’s shares up by as much as 963 percent — and helped the company attract money from the government and investors. At the same time, Inovio insiders have sold stock.
But some scientists and financial analysts question the viability of Inovio’s technology. While there are some early signs of promise with the company’s vaccine, Inovio has only released bare-bones data from the first phase of clinical trials. It is locked in a legal battle with a key manufacturing partner that claims Inovio stole its technology.

Shareholders have sued Inovio, claiming it has exaggerated its progress on a coronavirus vaccine to inflate its stock price. Adding to the challenges, Inovio’s potential vaccine will have to be administered by a gadget — it resembles an electric nose-hair trimmer and is called the Cellectra — that would direct genetic material into millions of patients.
And while the company has said that it is part of Operation Warp Speed — the flagship federal effort to quickly produce treatments and vaccines for the coronavirus — Inovio is not on the list of companies selected to receive financial support to mass-produce vaccines.

Goya CEO Robert Unanue saved by his sisters from getting canned


Goya Foods’ President Trump-loving CEO nearly lost his job last month as members of the family-owned business sought to inject new blood into the company through a partial sale to a private equity firm.
As The Post reported on July 19, Robert Unanue beat back efforts to sell a 25 percent stake in Goya to BDT Capital Partners in a deal that would have forced him to give up the CEO role after 18 months.
The Post has since learned, however, that Bob, 66, got his way only after his three sisters — Carol Freeborn, Mary Ellen Yorio and Lisa Unanue — threatened to never again speak to certain family members if they voted for the sale.
“Bob’s sisters threatened to cut off relations if they said yes to the sale,” said one source close to the family.
“They view him as a protector,” a second family source said of the sisters’ feelings for Bob.
The alleged drama started on July 8 — the day before Bob’s controversial White House appearance — when 53 percent of the Spanish-food empire’s shares were voted in favor of the sale to BDT during a preliminary nonbinding vote, sources said.
On board with the sale were Bob’s two younger brothers: Peter Unanue, a Goya executive vice president, and Tom Unanue, who no longer works there, sources said.
The brothers voted for the sale against Bob’s wishes because they felt their big bro had broken his promise to add three nonfamily directors to Goya’s nine-member board, sources said.
The board OK’d the board expansion plan — a pet project of Peter’s —in 2018 as a way to check Bob’s power and ensure he moved the canned-beans maker toward an initial public offering or other big payday for shareholders. But Bob rejected each and every director candidate presented to him, sources said.
That led to speculation that Bob may be trying to railroad an IPO so he can turn over the reins to his son Robert Jr. — and sent his brothers into the arms of Andy Unanue, a cousin who has been on the outs with Bob for years, sources said.
In 2004, Bob and another cousin, Francisco Unanue Jr., ousted Andy from his role as chief operating officer and heir apparent in a coup that also saw Bob replace Andy’s dad, Joseph A. Unanue, as Goya’s CEO after 28 years. Andy spearheaded the BDT deal in hopes that it would help Goya expand to Mexico and in the US beyond the East Coast, sources said.
Peter, in an e-mailed statement, said he was “troubled by the false statements that have been anonymously attributed to me and to others, as well as by the improper spreading of inaccurate and misleading claims that were purportedly made during confidential conversations among board members.”
 

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