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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.

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