Candidates are being tested to treat patients with chronic infections.

Inovio Biomedical and its collaborators from Drexel University, Cheyney University, and the University of Pennsylvania have received a $2.8 million grant to develop a DNA vaccine to treat HCV.

The money, which comes from the Pennsylvania Department of Health, will fund preclinical studies with Inovio’s vaccines. The company’s candidates are designed to treat persons who are chronically infected with HCV and have not responded to currently available therapies.

Inovio’s SynCon™ platform reportedly enables the design of universal vaccines capable of protecting against multiple strains of pathogens such as influenza, including newly emergent and unknown strains. The firm says that initial clinical data has demonstrated that its electroporation-based DNA vaccine delivery technology can safely and significantly increase gene expression and immune responses.

Inovio’s clinical-stage DNA vaccines are all in Phase I trials. They include VGX-3100 to treat cervical cancer, VGX-3400 for avian influenza, and Pennvax-B for the treatment and prevention of HIV. University of Southhampton, Tripep, and Merck & Co. each have Phase I candidates that leverage Inovio’s technology. The university is studying PSMA in prostate cancer, Tripep’s NS3/4A candidate is for HCV, and Merck is investigating V934:hTERT in breast, lung, and prostate cancers.

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