Inovio's MERS vaccine shows 100% protection in mice, camels, monkeys

Since 2012, 1,118 cases of Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) have been reported in Saudi Arabia and 483 people have died, but there is no vaccine that might head off an outbreak. Among those working to bring a vaccine to market to prevent such an epidemic is Inovio ($INO), which announced on Wednesday that its MERS candidate induced 100% protection from a live virus challenge in mice, camels and monkeys.

Inovio collaborated with researchers from the NIH, University of Pennsylvania, Public Health Agency of Canada among others, on the DNA-based vaccine. The study was published in Science Translational Medicine.

"In this preclinical study, our synthetic vaccine shows its capability to combat a disease for which there is no vaccine. We look forward to clinically testing this product as an effective shield against the deadly MERS virus," Dr. J. Joseph Kim, Inovio president and CEO said in a statement.

Inovio plans to advance the candidate into human trials in the fourth quarter of this year. GeneOne Life Science, under a previously announced collaboration with Inovio, will fund and conduct a Phase I trial.

Vaccines can sit on Big Pharma's back burner for years or even decades until an outbreak brings them back to the forefront. And even then, any new vaccines--such as Merck's Ebola vaccine that posted 100% efficacy in Phase III--may come too late, at least for the current epidemic. This has led to a discussion among health experts on how the current vaccine development model can be changed to produce vaccines against diseases that don't get much attention.

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