Our tale begins with Philadelphia Magazine from July 6. Titled, “Inovio Embroiled in Lawsuits Around Its Potential COVID-19 Vaccine,” the story notes that while Inovio’s vaccine INO-4800 is a leading contender, their “journey is not without flaws, most of which have been attributed to the company’s inability to, for lack of a better phrase, shut up.” From February into March CEO Joseph Kim, “made repeated claims that the publicly traded company had already discovered a vaccine for COVID-19.” When he did this in a meeting with President Trump, investment watchdog Citron Research urged the SEC to investigate Kim’s claims.
On March 12 Inovio shareholders filed a class-action suit in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania alleging that Kim’s statements violated securities law. Plaintiffs allege that the news caused the, “stock to skyrocket, and that between February 28th and March 9th, the company’s stock price shot up from around $4 to an intra-day high of nearly $20 per share.” They also claim that the news of a possible SEC probe plunged the stock back down to under $6. “Professor of Law at Temple University’s Beasley School of Law, Tom Lin, says Inovio broke an unspoken rule in drug development: say as little as possible, for as long as possible.”
“Theranos” of COVID; U.S. Military Funds Effort
In April, Citron put out a highly-critical report, calling Inovio the “Theranos” of COVID-19 vaccines. For the unfamiliar, Theranos’s founder made billions of dollars on false claims, and “is now facing up to 20 years in prison for conspiracy and fraud charges.” In the meantime, Inovio released positive Phase 1 research, saying “the regimen was well-tolerated with no serious adverse events.” But the firm did not release detailed preliminary trial data, once again fluctuating stock pricing and raising an issue as to its promise to produce, “one million doses of its vaccine by the end of 2020.”All of the above is even more significant given the amounts of federal money that Inovio has received. In a June 23 press release they trumpet the fact that they got $71 million from the Department of Defense to support technology underlying their vaccine product INO-4800.
We at TrialSite News are concerned about the politicization of COVID-19 research, and in addition to reporting on and supporting drug companies’ efforts, we will continue to advocate in the Pharma space for fair and ethical research and business practices.