In the clinic, Inovio's HIV vaccine treats as well as prevents

Inovio Pharmaceuticals' ($INO) President and CEO Dr. J Joseph Kim is known for his positive outlook, and his optimism seems to be well-placed--Inovio's HIV vaccine has triggered significant immune responses against a number of HIV antigens in a therapeutic clinical trial presented at the Vaccine World Summit 2012 in Hyderabad, India.

Inovio's vaccine, PENNVAX-B, is a SynCon synthetic DNA vaccine targeted against HIV clade B, the subtype most common in North America, and has potential both in prevention and treatment. The trial involved 12 people who were HIV positive but well-controlled on highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART), and each volunteer had four doses of PENNVAX-B over 16 weeks. The vaccine was given as intramuscular electroporation with Inovio's CELLECTRA electroporation device--a dose into the muscle followed by a small electrical pulse to "push" the vaccine into the cell--which seems to improve the overall immune response.

The vaccine included three HIV antigens, and 75% of the volunteers had a specific immune response against at least one while 50% had a response against at least two, which suggested to the company that the vaccine could be effective in clearing chronic HIV infection.

"This data is a first for DNA vaccines by yielding robust T cell immune responses in people chronically infected with HIV," Kim said. "Even though the HIV viral load of these volunteers was suppressed and brought under control by antiretroviral drugs, their immune systems are not normal and would typically have difficulty generating strong T cell responses to any immune stimulating approach."

According to the company, Inovio's PENNVAX-B HIV vaccine is unique in the field in that it is designed to be used for both treatment and prevention. PENNVAX-B has also been assessed in a Phase I trial as a preventive vaccine, in healthy volunteers, and the immune responses were reported to be better than those seen in other recombinant HIV vaccine trials conducted by the HIV Vaccine Trials Network (HVTN). The company is also developing therapeutic and prophylactic vaccines against clades A, C and D for Africa and Asia.

- read the press release