Inovio Pharmaceuticals was recently awarded up to a $9 million grant to develop a vaccine against a strain of coronavirus that’s spreading in China and spurred screening at U.S. airports.
The company said its DNA-based technology made it possible to rapidly develop a potential vaccine. Funding will support Inovio’s plans for early-stage testing in humans.
“We’ve been working very rapidly to move our new vaccine through preclinical testing in the next few weeks, and into human testing in the U.S. as rapidly as possible,” CEO Joseph Kim told the Wall Street Journal.
If successful, it’s unclear how long it would take for subsequent clinical trials and regulatory approval.
The Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations awarded the grant to Inovio, which is based in Pennsylvania but as of last year had 165 employees in San Diego. Most of these local employees focus on research and development.
Other drugmakers working to combat this strain of coronavirus, known as 2019-nCoV, include Moderna and Novavax.
China Central Television on Jan. 24 reported 881 confirmed cases in China, while the official death count stood at 26. The virus has spread to other countries, including the U.S.
Inovio has experience developing vaccines for coronaviruses, a family of viruses that cause respiratory problems. The company said its other vaccine for a related coronavirus is slated for a mid-stage clinical trial.
Partnering with Inovio on the recent effort are the Wistar Institute, VGXI and Twist Bioscience.
Inovio’s pipeline also includes VGX-3100, which is in a late-stage clinical trial to treat precancerous cervical lesions and cervix infection brought on by HPV, or human papillomavirus.