Inovio Pharmaceuticals (NYSE MKT: INO) says that its synthetic vaccine constructs for cytomegalovirus (CMV), a disease that causes infant death, induced strong immune responses in mice during a preclinical study.
The company said Monday that testing of multiple synthetic vaccine constructs for the virus induced "robust T cells" in mice - showing the potential for a SynCon DNA vaccine to treat the infection.
CMV causes congenital abnormalities and infant death, and is associated with cerebral palsy and brain tumours. It is also the most common viral infection in organ transplant recipients, Inovio noted, and is associated with several inflammatory diseases and cancers. It is as well implicated in hypertension.
The disease is a member of the herpes family of viruses that spreads through the transfer of body fluids.
"Our SynCon platform has again generated synthetic vaccine candidates that show promise for providing a treatment where there is none," said president and CEO, Dr. J. Joseph Kim.
"With recent human data showing the powerful killing effect of T cells generated by our therapeutic vaccine for HPV and HPV associated cervical dysplasia and cancer, we look forward to providing Inovio's answer to CMV, a medical problem that has yet to see a vaccine or cure despite 50 years of research."
Inovio's SynCon vaccines are designed to provide two capabilities not achievable with conventional vaccines: stimulation of T-cell immune responses to provide therapeutic capabilities, and universal cross-strain protection and treatment against known as well as newly emergent unmatched strains of pathogens. The company has clinical programs for cervical dysplasia, leukemia, the hep C virus, the flu and HIV.
The SynCon synthetic vaccines include a fragment of DNA that codes for an antigen, and Inovio uses electroporation--a small electric charge that loosens up the cell membrane -- to let the vaccine through.
Recently, the company saw its stock surge after it showed for the first time that its therapeutic synthetic vaccine, VGX-3100, can kill cells changed by HPV, or the human papillomavirus - which is behind 90 per cent or more of cervical cancer cases - into precancerous cervical dysplasias.
Inovio said Monday that the genetic complexity of CMV has prevented the advancement of vaccines for the disease. During the company's latest preclinical study, from which results will appear in the peer-reviewed journal Human Vaccines & Immunotherapeutics, DNA vaccine constructs targeting multiple CMV antigens were created using Inovio's SynCon platform.
According to the company, through its electroporation technology, the vaccine constructs were seen to induce "strong and broad CD8+ and CD4+ T cells" in mice. T cells play an important role in clearing infection in the body.
Each antigen produced responses against at least four and as many as 28 different regions of the antigen, with the magnitude of responses said to be central to effectively mitigating CMV infection in the transplantation setting.
In short, the results, Inovio said, will be an important tool for guiding clinical development of a CMV vaccine, with ongoing work to determine how many of the 10 antigens will be chosen, and developed further.
Inovio noted that CMV infects over 95 per cent of people in some developing countries. Although healthy people usually have few symptoms at the time of initial infection, after infection, the virus remains in a latent state in the body for the rest of a person's life. The virus can then be transmitted and cause infection through organ donation, or latent virus can become reactivated and cause symptoms.