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Montco biopharm firm gets $9M grant to battle China’s new coronavirus

J. Joseph Kim, co-founder and CEO of Inovio Pharmaceuticals. (Rich Myers)

J. Joseph Kim, co-founder and CEO of Inovio Pharmaceuticals. (Rich Myers)

This story originally appeared on Philadelphia Business Journal.

The Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) has awarded a $9 million grant to Inovio Pharmaceuticals to support development of a vaccine against the recently emerged strain of coronavirus.

The new coronavirus strain has killed 17 people, and infected nearly 600 more, in China.

The CEPI funding will support Inovio’s preclinical and clinical development, through phase-I human testing, of INO-4800 – the Plymouth Meeting company’s new potential coronavirus vaccine matched to the outbreak strain.

The vaccine candidate is based in part on technology generated in the lab of David B. Weiner, executive vice president and director of the Vaccine & Immunotherapy Center at The Wistar Institute. Wistar researchers are working with Inovio in its efforts to develop a vaccine for the new coronavirus strain.

CEPI, a public-private alliance formed in 2016 to finance and coordinate the development of new vaccines to prevent and contain infectious disease epidemics, previously awarded Inovio (NASDAQ: INO) a grant of up to $56 million for the development of vaccines against Lassa fever and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), which are also caused by a coronavirus.

Dr. J. Joseph Kim, Inovio’s CEO, said, “We’re extremely honored to expand our partnership with CEPI to tackle this new threat to global public health. Our DNA medicine platform represents the best modern day approach to combatting emerging pandemics.

“We have already demonstrated positive clinical outcomes with our vaccine against MERS-CoV, another coronavirus,” Kim said.

Kim said following the Zika viral infection outbreak about five years ago, Inovio and its partners developed a vaccine that went from bench to human testing in just seven months, which he said was the fastest vaccine development on record in recent decades.

“We believe we can further improve upon this accelerated timeline to meet the current challenge of the emerging Chinese coronavirus,” Kim said.

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