Universal flu vaccines to be developed under Inovio and US Vaccine Research Center collaboration

20 August 2009

Inovio Biomedical Corporation (NYSE Amex:INO) has entered into a research collaboration agreement with the US National Institutes of Health (NIH)’s Vaccine Research Center (VRC) to develop universal influenza vaccines.

Under the agreement, the VRC and Inovio will pool technologies to develop the vaccines as well as rapidly advance development of vaccine candidates targeting the emerging pandemic 2009 H1N1 swine flu strains.

Inovio has established strong collaborative relationships with some of the world’s top academic and research institutions, including the University of Pennsylvania and National Microbiology Laboratory of the Public Health Agency of Canada, to leverage the company’s R&D resources to develop universal flu vaccine programs.

In these studies with the VRC, electroporation-based delivery of novel DNA vaccines against influenza will be tested in pre-clinical animal studies to measure immune and protective responses. Inovio will provide electroporation devices and procedures based on its proprietary intradermal electroporation technology.

Inovio and the VRC will provide DNA vaccine plasmids encoding influenza antigens. Challenge studies in animal models and immunological analyses will be performed at the VRC; both Inovio and the VRC will evaluate the results. Successful completion of the pre-clinical evaluation may lead to selection of vaccine candidates for further clinical development.

The challenge of current vaccine technology is the inability to create influenza vaccines that can protect against new, unmatched strains that may subsequently emerge — this limitation is highlighted by the inability of existing seasonal influenza vaccines to protect against the present swine origin influenza A(H1N1) and recognition that the necessary development and manufacturing period to produce a strain-specific vaccine is long enough to enable such an influenza virus to quickly spread.

Inovio’s focus in its influenza programs is to develop universal influenza vaccines able to provide broader protective capabilities against perpetually emerging new strains.

The company previously reported data from prior and ongoing pre-clinical studies in pig models in which the SynCon based H1N1 vaccines achieved hemagglutination inhibition (HI) titers above the protection threshold in 100% of the vaccinated animals against different strains of influenza virus, including an existing swine influenza virus (A/Iowa/35233/1999) and a currently circulating swine influenza A(H1N1) virus (Swine A/Mexico/InDRE4487/2009).

The company previously reported data from prior and ongoing pre-clinical studies in mouse models in which the SynCon based H1N1 vaccines provided 100% protection in a lethal challenge study against an unmatched H1N1 virus that caused the 1918 Spanish flu, and showed in a separate study that vaccinated mice recovered from virus infection-induced morbidity significantly faster compared to non-immunized control mice when the mice were challenged with another currently circulating swine influenza A(H1N1) virus strain (A/Canada/AB/RV1532/2009).

Dr Joseph Kim, Inovio’s CEO, said, “We are pleased to share technology and collaborate with the VRC in the development of universal influenza vaccines. There is a public health need to rapidly develop vaccines targeting the swine origin influenza A/H1N1 in particular and, more generally, to develop universal influenza vaccines. The VRC is a world leader in vaccine research and clinical development and this agreement further expands our global collaboration network for influenza vaccines.”

Inovio’s novel SynCon technology enables the company to design DNA-based vaccines with the potential to broadly protect against unmatched sub-types and strains of pathogens and provide the opportunity to have vaccines on hand against new strains that are perpetually emerging, as in the case of influenza.

Inovio has created SynCon DNA vaccines based on influenza HA, NA, and NP proteins from strains H1N1, H2N2, H3N2, and H5N1, which make up the majority of seasonal and pandemic influenza. A resulting vaccine could target seasonal as well as pandemic-potential influenza strains such as avian influenza and swine flu, which has already been designated pandemic status.

Significantly, being based on a common set of antigens derived from a broad range of flu strains, such a universal vaccine would have the potential to provide greater protection against evolving, unmatched flu strains.

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