Inovio hopes Ebola vaccine booster data can provide a shot in the arm

A day after imposing a second round of layoffs, Inovio revealed a small data set for its Ebola vaccine booster, which the company hopes could someday also boost its fortunes.

INO-4201 was tested in a phase 1b study in 46 healthy volunteers who had previously received Merck & Co.’s Ebola vaccine Ervebo three to seven years prior. The 36 participants who received the shot responded, with boosted neutralizing titers maintained 24 weeks later.

Patients received a 1-mg dose, which was injected intradermally followed by electroportation using Inovio's Cellectra device. Cellectra is a hand-held device that uses a brief electrical pulse to allow plasmids to enter cells through temporary pores.

Inovio is working with Global Urgent and Advanced Research and Development, or GuardRX, through funding from the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA, and Geneva University Hospitals. The company expects to reveal more data in a peer-reviewed journal at a later date. 

The Pennsylvania biotech is in need of good news from the clinic, after its early efforts to develop a COVID-19 vaccine ran into trouble in 2021 while other companies got to the finish line faster. With that disappointment, Inovio's tough times continued, culminating in two rounds of layoffs, most recently on Wednesday when 11% of the workforce was let go.

In the strategic reorganization announced this week, Inovio said its lead programs were treatments for HPV-associated diseases. This includes recurrent respiratory papillomatosis candidate INO-3107 and VGX-3100 for cervical high-grade squamous intraepithelial lesions. The company is expecting data from both programs in the first quarter. 

Editor's note: This story was updated at 3:06 p.m. ET on Feb. 2, 2023, to correct that Wednesday's layoffs involved 11% of staff. The article was later updated to reflect that the new INO-3107 and VGX-3100 data is anticipated in the first quarter, not the third.