Inovio acquires needle-free jet injector tech from Bioject for $5.5M

Plymouth Meeting, PA's Inovio Pharmaceuticals ($INO) announced it is acquiring all of Bioject Medical Technologies' ($BJCT) needle-free jet injection devices and intellectual property for $5.5 million in cash and stock. Inovio intends to combine Bioject's jet injection technology with its needle-free, skin-surface electroporation technology to noninvasively administer DNA vaccines.

The Bioject ZetaJet needle-free delivery system

Tigard, OR's Bioject says its delivery devices force liquid medication through tiny pores in the human skin that are narrower than the diameter of human hair by creating an ultra-fine stream of high-pressure fluid.

It makes a variety of needle-free injection devices for intramuscular and subcutaneous injections, and is developing one for very shallow intradermal injections as well, according to the company's website.

Inovio says its assessment of the combination of needle-free jet injectors for intramuscular administration and its electroporation technology for intracellular delivery has generated "compelling antigen expression and immune responses in animals."

Therapeutic areas that could benefit from needle-less vaccines include the company's clinical-stage programs flu, HIV, Ebola, and MERS, Inovio says. DNA vaccines for Zika, dengue, Chikungunya and RSV are in the preclinical stage, according to an Inovio release.

It is also developing a variety of medications using needle-based injection and electroporation, including its Phase II lead candidate for cervical dysplasia, which is being developed with AstraZeneca's ($AZN) MedImmune.

Inovio CEO J. Joseph Kim

"To fully realize the opportunity of mass immunization against challenging infectious diseases we believed we could create an additional advantage: that is noninvasive vaccine administration. Similar to our past acquisitions of Advisys and Inovio AS, this purchase of Bioject's superior jet injection technology and well-positioned patents is an investment in Inovio's future. Jet injection alone cannot achieve the utility of DNA vaccines. However, combined with our new needle-free skin-surface electroporation delivery technology we believe we can offer a compelling solution to protect against RSV, ever-changing influenza strains, and emerging infectious diseases like Zika," Inovio CEO Dr. J. Joseph Kim said in a statement.

The DNA vaccines are being developed with significant support from the NIH and other federal agencies, such as the U.S. Army Small Business Innovation Research program, which recently gave Inovio $500,000 to develop a needle-free, noninvasive skin-surface electroporation DNA delivery device.

The deal is expected to close in about 30 days. Inovio will pay Bioject $4.5 million in Inovio stock--based on the 20-day weighted average share price immediately prior to closing--and $1.0 million in cash.

- read the release