As part of an effort to ensure that the military and public can get rapid access to vaccinations for multiple infections, Inovio Pharmaceuticals (NYSE MKT: INO) has received a $3.5 million grant from National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, according to a company statement.
The grant will help the company advance its drug delivery platform for synthetic vaccines. It uses an electrical charge to make cell membranes more porous in order to introduce a molecule or DNA code to change the cell’s function, a method called electroporation. It transmits the charge through a scratch on the skin surface.
Inovio Pharmaceuticals, based in Blue Bell, Pennsylvania, is working on the project in collaboration with Dr. Connie Schmaljohn, chief scientist at the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases. It will use the funds to construct an electroporation device to painlessly deliver multiple vaccinations at once. That device will help advance Inovio’s other vaccines it’s developing, such as one that could combat all flu strains, referred to as “universal flu,” as well as an HIV vaccine.
So far, a team of researchers from Inovio has collaborated with scientists from the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases to advance a DNA vaccine for the Lassa virus, designated as a “Category A” pathogen by the Department of Defense, according to the statement. It’s an acute viral illness endemic to portions of West Africa transmitted through rodent droppings. It has a relatively high mortality rate and can cause deafness, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
Among the synthetic vaccines in its pipeline, Inovio has two in Phase 2 development including one for cervical cancer caused by HPV. Last month it raised $15 million to advance the vaccine through Phase 2 trials and expects to have data available in the beginning of 2014. It also has a leukemia vaccine. Additionally, it is collaborating with Chron Tech Pharma, providing its drug delivery platform for the company’s Hepatitis C vaccine.