Inovio Biomedical and VGX Pharmaceuticals to Merge

Citing synergies, Inovio Biomedical and VGX Pharmaceuticals have announced merger plans.

Inovio’s electroporation technology uses brief, controlled electrical pulses to increase cellular uptake of gene expression in DNA-based treatments; this enhances the potency of DNA-based immunotherapies against cancers and infectious diseases. Merging with VGX immediately adds a pipeline of DNA vaccine candidates and a team of scientists with strong DNA vaccine expertise.

The combined pipeline of therapeutic and preventive DNA vaccine candidates includes one wholly owned agent for HIV and one partly owned agent for hepatitis C (both in phase I clinical trials).

Investigational new drug applications are open for a cervical cancer agent and under review for avian influenza. Additional research and development initiatives are focused on universal flu vaccines and prostate cancer. VGX also brings SynCon, a technology used to generate new product candidates.

Inovio has an extensive patent portfolio and line of devices and prototypes for electroporation-based DNA delivery. Interim clinical data from multiple studies has indicated safety and tolerability, heightened levels of antibody and T-cell immune responses, and durable local and systemic tumor responses – providing initial validation of electroporation’s ability to enhance DNA vaccine potency.

Out-licenses and collaborations at the combined company include:

  • Merck (cancers)
  • Wyeth (infectious diseases)
  • HIV Vaccine Trial Network (HIV)
  • National Cancer Institute (HIV)
  • International AIDS Vaccine Initiative (HIV)
  • Vical (metastatic melanoma)
  • Moffitt Cancer Center (malignant melanoma)
  • University of Southampton (prostate cancer)

Four phase I clinical studies are in progress and an IND has been filed for a fifth.

The deal carries with it VGX’s animal health division and a 30% ownership interest in VGX International, a Korean company listed on the Korean Stock Exchange. VGX International has initiated a project to build and operate a 3,000-liter scale cGMP DNA plasmid manufacturing facility.

The transaction is expected to close in Q4 2008. Upon closing, Inovio Biomedical will change its name to VGX Pharmaceuticals, Inc. Ownership in the combined company will be split (approximately) between Inovio and VGX, excluding $5.5 million of VGX convertible debt. For complete details, see the press release.

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