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Inovio (INO) to Receive Milestone Payment From AstraZeneca

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Inovio Pharmaceuticals, Inc. (INO - Free Report) announced that it will receive an undisclosed amount of milestone payment from AstraZeneca (AZN - Free Report) as the latter dosed the first patient in a phase II study on T cell-activating immunotherapy, MEDI0457. The study will evaluate MEDI0457 in combination with AstraZeneca’s anti PD-L1 checkpoint inhibitor, Imfinzi (durvalumab), for treating several human papilloma virus (HPV) related cancers.

We remind investors that in August 2015, MedImmune in-licensed exclusive rights to Inovio’s INO-3112, which is now known as MEDI0457. Medimmune is a wholly owned subsidiary of AstraZeneca.

The open-label phase II program will be funded by MedImmune and will be conducted as part of MD Anderson’s “Moon Shot” cancer initiative. MD Anderson is a cancer research center in Houston. Dr. Michael Frumovitz, managing director, MD Anderson research center, is a noted cancer researcher, who is sponsoring the above-mentioned phase II analysis.

The program looks to treat patients with HPV-related cervical, anal, penile and vulvar cancers. Inovio is entitled to receive an additional milestone and royalty payments with the amplification of HPV cancer targets.

Shares of Inovio have rallied 26.4% year to date versus the industry’s decline of 14.4%.

We remind investors that MedImmune is also evaluating MEDI0457 (combo of Inovio’s VGX-3100 immunotherapy and a DNA-based immune activator encoded for IL-12) in combination with Imfinzi, for the treatment of HPV-caused cervical plus head and neck cancers.

VGX-3100 is the most advanced candidate in Inovio’s pipeline, developed for treating HPV-16/18-related high-grade cervical dysplasia (CIN 2/3). Currently, the candidate is being evaluated in a phase III investigation (REVEAL 1) for addressing cervical dysplasia caused by HPV. The company expects to complete enrollment in REVEAL 1 study by early 2019 and initiate the phase II thereafter. It is also conducting a phase II assessment to examine the efficacy of VGX-3100 in women with HPV-related vulvar neoplasia.

Zacks Rank & Other Stocks to Consider

Inovio currently carries a Zacks Rank #2 (Buy). Other top-ranked stocks in the healthcare sector include Alexion Pharmaceuticals, Inc. (ALXN - Free Report) and Vanda Pharmaceuticals Inc. (VNDA - Free Report) , both sporting a Zacks Rank #1 (Strong Buy). You can see the complete list of today’s Zacks #1 Rank stocks here.

Alexion’s earnings estimates have been revised 5.3% upward for 2018 and 2.1% for 2019 over the past 60 days. The stock has gained 2.2% year to date.

Vanda Pharmaceuticals’ earnings estimates have been raised 112.5% for 2018 and 11.1% for 2019 over the past 60 days. The stock has soared 90.3% year to date.

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