Inovio Pharmaceuticals Doses First Patient in MERS Vaccine Trial

Inovio Pharmaceuticals (INO), a developer of DNA immunotherapies, Wednesday reported dosing of the first subject with its vaccine to prevent the deadly Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, or MERS virus, in a phase 1/2a study.

Inovio said the trial is ongoing in South Korea sponsored by its Korean development partner for its MERS vaccine, the publicly held GeneOne Life Science. The International Vaccine Institute is fully funding this trial utilizing a grant from the Samsung Foundation.

Inovio said it expects to advance its MERS vaccine into a phase 2 field trial in the Middle East in 2019 with funding from the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovation (CEPI).

Inovio said it has received a $56 million grant from CEPI, which includes funding from the Gates foundation, under which it will develop vaccine candidates through phase 2 against MERS and also Lassa fever. The goal is a MERS vaccine for stockpiling.

Inovio said despite the continuing threat of MERS outbreaks, there are no licensed vaccines or treatments. Since the virus was first identified in Saudi Arabia in 2012, the World Health Organization reports more than 2,000 MERS infections, 36% of which led to death.