Humankind has a lot to thank for vaccines. First developed in 1796, vaccination has been the most effective method of preventing infectious diseases and has led to the worldwide eradication of smallpox and the restriction of diseases such as polio and tetanus. Now there is a new development in the vaccine world that is set for the same sort of impact; DNA vaccines.
DNA vaccines have been touted as the future of modern medicine and the most exciting breakthrough in science for the treatment of cancer, HIV, hepatitis, the flu and other diseases. According to the Department of Pathology of John Hopkins University, "Advances in DNA vaccine technology have led to significant results in preclinical tumor models. They could lead to the development of a new generation of therapies for the treatment and prevention of cancer".
DNA Vaccines - Advantages
Instead of using viruses as vaccines, DNA vaccines use the natural sequence of DNA within the body to stimulate immune responses, making them safer and more effective than ordinary vaccinations. The technique involves injecting an organism with genetically engineered DNA. According to Inovio Pharmaceuticals, Inc. (NYSE: INO) CEO Joseph Kim, ''you could, for example, teach your immune system to kill tumors or clear off hepatitis-infected cells from your liver." What this means is a totally new therapeutic use for vaccines not previously experienced.
As well as this improved effectiveness, DNA vaccines also happen to be easier to produce, cheaper to supply and easier to store. They can be used in tropical or warmer temperatures without decline in quality, a major boon for the treatment of AIDS in Africa, or hepatitis in China.
There are currently few ways to gain exposure to this exciting new technology but one way is through Inovio Pharmaceuticals, a company that is leading the way in tackling some of the world's deadliest diseases.
Inovio stock hit recent new highs in January of this year and is moving upwards, although the stock price is likely to be fairly bumpy while the company is in mid-stage clinical testing. Like any other biotech firm, a company's future can often live or die by the outcome of its trials and Inovio is no exception. However, there are good signs for Inovio with several large pharmaceutical companies sizing up INO for acquisition. As CEO Joseph Kim states, "Inovio will have to partner with a big pharmaceutical at some point in order to secure marketing, commercialization and distribution resources."
Furthermore, Inovio has already had product-based license agreements with Merck & Company, Inc. (NYSE: MRK) and Wyeth, as well as discussions in the pipeline with other big players for some of its newer products. Indeed many large pharmaceutical companies, historically with little exposure to vaccines, are actively looking to expand into this area as seen by the recent purchase of Medimmune by AstraZeneca plc (NYSE: AZN).
With clinical trials continuing to show exceptional responses to DNA vaccines, DNA vaccines promise to extend the tremendous legacy of vaccine technology and Inovio will be in the perfect place to benefit.
Disclosure: I have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours.