Inovio Pharmaceuticals

Inovio Pharmaceuticals

Inovio Pharmaceuticals is a biotechnology company developing and commercializing DNA immunotherapies for the treatment of cancer and infectious diseases. The company is headquartered in Plymouth Meeting, Pennsylvania and was founded by Joseph Kim in 1983.

Inovio Pharmaceuticals is a biotechnology company developing and commercializing DNA immunotherapies for the treatment of cancer and infectious diseases. The company is headquartered in Plymouth Meeting, Pennsylvania and was founded by Joseph Kim in 1983.

Inovio’s vaccines introduce DNA sequences from the virus to provide an immune system target for specific parts of the pathogen that are predicted to elicit the strongest response by the immune system. Their platform delivers DNA into cells within the patient, where it is translated into proteins that activate their immune response.



VGX-3100 entered Phase 3 trials as an immunotherapy for HPV-related cervical precancer. VGX-3100 is comprised of two synthetic DNA plasmids that encode and express antigen targets for anti-HPV. The VGX-3100 DNA is not designed to integrate into the host genome. VGX-3100 was made using DNA SynCon technology and contains non-oncogenic HPV genes E6 and E7 from HPV16 and HPV18 viral strains. VGX-3100 is delivered into muscle using a CELLECTRA 5P Device. The DNA plasmid translocates to the nucleus due to the localized electroporation field generated which makes cell membranes temporarily permeable to the large synthetic DNA molecules. The E6 an E7 HPV antigenic proteins induce a cellular and humoral immune response specific to HPV 16/18 infected cells that are dysplastic or abnormal looking.

COVID-19 vaccine development

Inovio Pharmaceuticals received a $9 million grant from Coalition Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) to develop a vaccine against the SARS-CoV-2 (previously called 2019-nCoV) coronavirus. The coronavirus strain has more recently been renamed SARS-CoV-2 with the disease called COVID-19 (coronavirus disease). The company’s MERS-CoV vaccine has shown positive clinical outcomes against a different coronavirus. Inovio Pharmaceuticals will work with Twist Bioscience, a company that will provide DNA synthesis.

Inovio is working in collaboration with David Weiner and colleagues at the Vaccine & Immunotherapy Center at the Wistar Institute in Philadelphia and Keith Chappell at the University of Queensland. Both Weiner and Chappell’s research teams are generating a DNA vaccine based on the virus’s genetic sequence, which is RNA. For the approach by Weiner and colleagues, the DNA fragments of the new coronavirus will be injected into a person’s skin, taken up by skin cells and the DNA read by the skin’s cellular machinery and translated into proteins that the coronavirus would produce. These proteins will be used to elicit an immune response to recognize the virus. The research team needs to determine which DNA sequences that encode viral proteins, would elicit the strongest immune response.

Chappell and colleagues will use an approach called the molecular clamp which improves the immune response of certain viral proteins. The molecular clamp technology allows the expression of viral fusion proteins in their native trimeric ‘pre-fusion’ form. This form is equivalent to the way they are expressed on the virion surface, the principle target for the antibody response.


December 20, 2019

Safety and immunogenicity of VGX-3100 formulations in a healthy young adult population

Funding rounds

Funding round
Funding type
Funding round amount (USD)
Funding round date
INOVIO PHARMACEUTICALS, INC. funding round, January 2020
January 2020
2 Results
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Further reading


Documentaries, videos and podcasts





Heather Murphy
June 13, 2020
Two sisters in Missouri were among the first to have an unproven coronavirus vaccine injected in their bodies. If it makes it to market, it would also be the first DNA vaccine for any disease.
May 18, 2020
More than 100 COVID-19 vaccine candidates are in various stages of development with a handful of them already in early human trials. Three coronavirus vaccines have entered phase 2 clinical trials.
Knvul Sheikh
April 8, 2020
Just three months after the start of the coronavirus pandemic, several biotech companies are beginning trials of promising vaccines and treatments.
Darrell Etherington
April 6, 2020
A new COVID-19 vaccine candidate is entering Phase 1 clinical human testing today, after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) accepted an application from Inovio Pharmaceuticals under the regulator's Investigational New Drug program. Inovio plans to inject its first volunteer test subject with the INO-4800 DNA vaccine candidate it has developed, following promising results [...]
February 1, 2020
Researchers have found that the mechanics of infection displayed by the new coronavirus (2019-nCoV) are similar to that of the 2002-03 SARS outbreak
May 17, 2019
QIAGEN N.V. (NYSE: QGEN; Frankfurt Prime Standard: QIA) and Inovio Pharmaceuticals Inc. (NASDAQ: INO) announced a collaboration to co-develop a companion diagnostic to guide clinical decision-making for the use of Inovio's DNA-based immunotherapy to treat cervical dysplasia caused by human papillomavirus (HPV). The Precision Medicine partnership focuses on Inovio's VGX-3100, a late-stage investigational product candidate with potential to become the first treatment for HPV infection...


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