Inovio shares fall as AstraZeneca pares down partnership

AstraZeneca facility at The Cove
A 2015 pact with MedImmune was worth $700 million in biobucks to Inovio Pharmaceuticals. (AstraZeneca)

As the dust settles on a continued exodus at AstraZeneca and faces and units are replaced, it seems the U.K.-based Big Pharma is starting to look at cutting some of the fat from its external pacts, and Inovio Pharmaceuticals is in the crosshairs.

AstraZeneca's biologics arm MedImmune and Inovio have a long history, penning a deal back in 2015 worth $27.5 million upfront and up to $700 million in milestones for work on Inovio's cancer vaccines.  

RELATED: AstraZeneca offers $727M package to partner with Inovio on immuno-oncology

But in its brief SEC update, the biotech said: “Inovio Pharmaceuticals has received notification from MedImmune, a subsidiary of AstraZeneca, that AstraZeneca intends to discontinue activities with respect to the research collaboration programs, other than MEDI0457, that are the subject of the parties’ license and collaboration agreement dated August 7, 2015. Under that agreement, in addition to MEDI0457, AstraZeneca had rights to co-develop up to two new DNA-based cancer vaccine product candidates.”

RELATED: Inovio slapped with FDA PhIII clinical hold, shares tumble

The pair will continue to work on MEDI0457 (formerly called INO-3112), a therapy in-licensed by AstraZeneca in 2015, with further research in the clinic for cancers arising out of the human papillomavirus (HPV).

The drug is being put into combo tests with AstraZeneca’s PD-L1 checkpoint inhibitor Imfinzi in a number of midstage HPV-related cancers, and Inovio was keen to point out that it “continues to be eligible to receive potential milestone payments with respect to the development and commercialization of MEDI0457, as well as up to double-digit tiered royalties on any MEDI0457 product sales, if it is approved for marketing.”

Shares in the biotech, which has a spinout cancer immunotherapy company called Geneos Therapeutics, were down 16.5% in after-hours trading on the news Tuesday evening.