Inovio/VGX merger to expedite DNA vaccine development

By Gareth Macdonald

- Last updated on GMT

Electroporation specialist Inovio Biomedical Corp and vaccine
developer VGX Pharmaceuticals believe that their recently announced
merger will create a firm capable of rapidly moving DNA vaccine
candidates from the laboratory to the clinic.

The definitive agreement, which has been approved by the boards of both firms but is still subject to clearance by stockholders, will integrate Inovio's electroporation technology with VGX's pipeline of developmental DNA vaccines and Cellectra delivery platform. In January this year, BCC research forecast that the global market for therapeutic vaccines, which is valued at around $20bn (€12.7bn), will be worth $34bn by 2013, representing a compound annual growth rate of nearly 11 per cent. While traditional antigen-based products will continue to dominate the sector, the benefits offered by DNA vaccines in terms of minimized side effect profile make any successful technology an attractive proposition. "We are highly confident that the combined company will advance the potential of developing and delivering new DNA vaccines that could play a significant role in treating or even preventing diseases. Leadership of both companies could not forego this medical and market opportunity,"​ commented Avtar Dhillon, Inovio Biomedical's CEO. Joseph Kim, co-founder, president and CEO of VGX Pharmaceuticals, said that: "Significant, growing evidence indicates that electroporation has a pivotal role to play in enabling the potency of this promising new generation of vaccines and VGX has already made a strong commitment to this DNA delivery technology​." FDA accepts VGX's DNA cervical cancer vacc IND ​Earlier this month, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved VGX's Investigational New Drug (IND) application for the DNA vaccine for cervical cancer, VGX-3100. Following the decision, the firm announced plans to initiate a Phase I clinical trial in the third quarter this year. At present, the cervical cancer vaccine market is shared between Merck and Sanofi Pasteur's Gardasil and GlaxoSmithKline's (GSK) Cervarix. Both products are traditional antigen-based vaccines that incorporate a limited range of antigens present in the most commonly circulating human papilloma virus (HPV) strains. In contrast, VGX-3100 is a DNA vaccine that has been designed to offer protection against a wide range of HPV viruses. The product was developed using VGX's SynCon DNA antigen platform, which aligns a selection of primary DNA sequences for each antigen and selects the base that is most common or relevant at each position using a series of sophisticated statistical algorithms. The selected composite antigens are then included in the vaccine. VGX claims that the approach allows it to identify the DNA sequences that are most likely to elicit cross-reactive immunity to the widest range of HPV viruses, thereby providing enhanced immune protection.

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