“The Shock Heard Round the World — Big Pharma’s Holy Grail: The Vaccine of the Century”

By Travis Johnson, Stock Gumshoe, February 2, 2010

And we’re back! Today, it’s a biotech teaser from Brian Hicks for Steve Christ’s The Wealth Advisory (we last looked at one of his a few months back, when he was predicting a big move in Geron by this Spring — that one’s still on the clock, so we’ll see).

This time the tease is for a company that’s significantly smaller, but also in a potentially revolutionary area of medicine — with Geron it was stem cells, with this one it’s new vaccine technology, particularly therapeutic DNA vaccines. So how does he tease us? Let us read the ways …

“One overlooked American biotech just made your immune system 1,000 times more effective…

…Here’s how it could make your portfolio 1,000 times healthier.”

The ad goes on to establish the market — listing some of the major diseases and concluding that, just in the US, major diseases kill 360,000 people a year…

“If the U.S. loses 360,000 people a year in the world’s most advanced, highest-tech health-care system, the rest of the world must lose tens of millions to these diseases, easily.

“Now, what if I told you that one miniscule, all-but-ignored American bio-pharma firm owns the breakthrough that could soon render all these millions of deaths a thing of the past?

“What if I told you that this company is already seeing success on human subjects using this technology that turns the genes of viruses and cancerous cells against themselves?

“Then what if I said that right now, you have a brief window of opportunity to scoop up shares of this destined-to-change-the-world company for less than $1.50 a piece?

“That’s the kind of once-in-your-life profit play that could conceivably turn every dollar you invest into $100 at least – and maybe $1000 or more…”

To make the case for huge gains the ad also mentions, as they always do, a few stocks that have had massive returns — including Human Genome Sciences in the fight against lupus, and Dendreon’s rollercoaster ride with Provenge, a therapeutic vaccine for prostate cancer. And they speculate about the huge impact that this new vaccine breakthrough could have had on the Spanish Flu epidemic of 1918, potentially saving some of those lost 50 million lives.

So that’s a nice backgrounder — we know that a “perfect” vaccine for many diseases would save lots of lives, that the market is potentially huge, and that big medical results can lead to huge stock market returns. Probably not a surprise to anyone, but it sets the stage … which leads us to the actual company that Christ is touting here.

They call this company’s innovation a “cell shock” — some kind of electric impulse that makes it easier to get a DNA vaccine into your cells to build an immune response. Here’s some more on the technology they’re developing, with a few clues thrown in:

“While they’ve kept themselves under the radar, our featured micro-biotech firm is also not new to the vaccine scene- they’ve been developing this particular technology for the past 14 years…

“… our firm’s unique genetic vaccines utilize the virus’s own DNA, which is genetically altered and then injected into cells to produce antibodies that are not fooled by the virus’ change …

“This news is just the beginning, too.

* “Because DNA is easily replicated in laboratory settings, the vaccine does not need to rely upon chicken eggs to incubate the virus…
* “Which not only means they have a more reliable source for the vaccine, but the turn-around time for its production is now a mere 2-3 weeks!
* “Moreover, this type of vaccine, because it doesn’t rely on a live virus, is able to be shipped and stored in a variety of conditions…
* “Including those areas in third-world countries that have difficulty storing traditional vaccines because of their lack of refrigeration.

“Add to this the ridiculously cheap cost of manufacturing genetic vaccines, and you have some great news for an industry already worth over $22.5 billion.”

And then the ad goes on to describe what this “cell shock” stuff means:

“‘Cell-shock’ technology is a delivery method which uses a small jolt of electricity to open the pores of the cells.

“Normally DNA molecules are too large to enter in the cell by themselves- it’s a natural cellular defense to keep unwanted objects from entering.

“But with the cell doors artificially stimulated, more of the genetic material in the vaccine is able to make it to the cell’s replication center, increasing the number of antibodies the cell is able to produce.

“This cell-shock technology is able to increase the uptake of DNA without the side effects normally associated with traditional vaccine types.

“In other words: Cell-shock technology is unmatched in its ability to safely, effectively, and economically deliver a genetically tailored vaccine to disease-ridden cells.

“After 25 years and over $100 million in research, this overlooked micro-cap company has the dominant patent estate on this technology.”

And we get a few more clues that are specific to this company:

“But you must hurry if you expect to cash in: Research universities and biotech companies across the world are already using this company’s cell-shock method to deliver genetic vaccines with astounding success…

“One European company using this technology has already completed phase I vaccine trials for Hepatitis C, which is the leading cause of chronic liver disease in the U.S.

“That’s just one of three other research partners using this company’s patented cell-shock technology- and it doesn’t end there, either…

“This company has received over $25.1 million from both the government and various philanthropists and charities to develop a range of vaccines for everything from biodefense to third-world diseases like malaria….

“Preliminary animal tests of this company’s “cell shock” system have already shown 100% protection against the H1N1 version currently sweeping the globe!

“This is why you must get in on this stock RIGHT NOW. Even overcoming an obstacle as small as moving this vaccine into animal trials is enough to push this stock’s gains well over 200%.

“That’s right: This stock has already tripled in recent months on early word of what it can do.”

And finally, we get a summary of the company’s pipeline:

“This company is on the verge of surpassing several major obstacles in the next couple months-

* “1 vaccine is already in the middle of phase II human trials
* “6 vaccines are nearing the end of phase I human trials
* “1 vaccine is awaiting confirmation to move into phase I human trials
* “4 others are finishing up their animal trials and on the verge of applying to continue to humans

“Every phase that one of these 12 vaccines moves up is another good bump to this company’s stock.

“The further along the vaccine is, the more you can expect the stock to rise…

“…Completing any one of the human trials could easily see your gains reach triple-digits – or even more.”

So who is this company? Well, all the clues match up — including the fact that the company talks about successfully backtesting with the 1918 flu … this must be …

Inovio Biomedical (INO)

Inovio is indeed a vaccine-focused biotech company, with a good match on all of those clues. They are working on most of the diseases mentioned in the teaser, with their most advanced pipeline products (those six phase 1 clinical trial candidates) being for cervical cancer, HIV (three trials, both preventive and therapeutic), prostate cancer, and breast/lung/prostate cancer. They do have one product that’s probably moving beyond phase 1, the one that’s teased as being with a European partner, in this case it’s a Hepatitis C vaccine that’s been partnered with Tripep, a Swedish company and that reported Phase 1 results back in December. When this trial launched it was called a Phase I/II trial, so I suppose they could technically be in Phase II now with their continuing patients, but the announcement didn’t offer any further details on that front.

The CEO has been making the rounds of conferences recently, and noted that “2010 will be a strong inflection point for our company.” But of course, CEOs say that kind of thing … and probably believe it … all the time. The previous CEO was equally optimistic in 2007 when their Phase I/II trials for various cancers were moving forward in Europe, trials that apparently fizzled or were reworked (I didn’t dig too deeply into those) — the new CEO, Joseph Kim, came in as part of their merger last summer with his VGX Pharmaceuticals, a merger that also moved Inovio into the DNA vaccine research business in a big way … the merger essentially marries VGX’s DNA vaccine development technology with Inovio’s delivery technology (that “cell shock” bit, which they call “electroporation”).

And I should probably insert the standard warning here about tiny stocks — this one is trading at just about $1.05 right now, with a market cap just a bit above $100 million and less than a half million shares traded a day, so the stock usually moves one way or another on real news, and is probably just as likely to move on no news at all, or on the mentions by Steve Christ, if this is indeed his stock, or by yours truly — the stock has already seen dramatic highs and lows this year, so remember that though the stock got well over $3 back when swine flu was in the news every day, it also got down under 30 cents when the market was falling apart back in March … and either of those extremes is probably possible in the year to come.

It’s quite possible that you’ve heard of Inovio — probably because they were one of the popular swine flu names last summer when that investment craze peaked, and their stock did triple in a very brief period of time and then collapse shortly afterward. Scott Eden at TheStreet.com did a nice story on Inovio not long after that swine flu spike in the shares (a spike that has almost completely evaporated now, the stock got well over $3 a share, albeit very briefly, and is now trading at just over a buck). That article noted, as have previous ones on this company and others, that the bets on new vaccine technology have largely gone nowhere over the last decade — when it came to the panic over swine flu, the governments placing huge commodity orders were focused on the tried and true and on big pharma, there’s certainly research money going into advanced vaccine development but we’re not going to see these drugs for this (now significantly less fearsome) pandemic, and quite possibly not in the next one, either.

As I’ve written many, many times, I’m no scientist — Inovio’s products revolve around technology that they call SynCon for DNA-based vaccines, and around the electroporation technology for ensuring that those vaccines get into the cells as required (that electroporation bit appears to me to be the “Cell Shock” that Christ talks about) … and we should all be very skeptical about new vaccine technologies and new delivery techniques … or at the very least, extremely patient. The FDA has proven to be cautious about approving new vaccines, particularly novel ones (as anyone who has watched Dendreon’s share price could tell you over the years) … Inovio’s pipeline looks impressive but is all very early-stage stuff and, save for the swine flu excitement (the vaccine they were testing was still in animal studies … pigs, naturally), it looks to me like there’s not yet a headline-maker in the pipeline, they’re still waiting for the clinical trial that shows outstanding results, shocks investors into excitement, and gets them big partner deals.

Will one of the current pipeline products be the one that breaks through? That’s the big question, of course … it is certainly promising that they have a half-dozen different clinical trials ongoing, including a couple partnered trials with Merck and the aforementioned Tripep, but while that improves the odds it does seem likely that the odds remain quite long for an immediate breakthrough — this is still early-stage biotech and what seems to me a yet-to-be-proven platform of technologies. I wouldn’t argue against trading these shares and hoping for spikes on big news, it does seem like they will have a lot of news that’s likely to come this year … but I would say that it would probably behoove investors to be prepared for that news to be uninspiring.

What do you think? Have a better candidate for Steve Christ’s biotech teaser here, or were you one of the lucky (or unlucky) traders who rode Inovio up or down last Summer? Willing to take a chance on a new vaccine technology, or do you want to wait for it to get a bit further along first? Personally, I’m more comfortable with Christ’s Geron pick just because it seems like a stodgy old man compared to this little whippersnapper, but I don’t own any of these stocks right now — let us know what you think with a comment below.

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Share Your Thoughts

ShowHide Comments (55)
    1. Michael B.
      Feb 2 2010, 03:23:47 pm

      A better candidate for lasting success with novel vaccines and new
      delivery techniques (i.e. via the inner lining of the mouth) may be Generex.
      anyway, good luck – and patience!

    2. Jim Morris
      Feb 2 2010, 03:42:02 pm

      A question really. How well funded is Inovio to pursue these vaccines what could be a long dry stretch? Are 25 years and $100 million in research credible statements? If so, who is the benefactor of these investments. Are there any notable venture capital firms involved. Is any income being generated by older existing pharamcutical produts.

      25 years seems like a long time to keep pumping money into a dream. Any Answers?

      Jim Morris

    3. Dan
      Feb 2 2010, 04:35:53 pm

      I own it. 1.05 should be the bottom, but it needs good news. Biotechs will be a great speculation play for the next 5-10 years as new technology gets eaten up by the big-boys. Put 1000 in ten to 15 of them and let it ride.

    4. Charlie
      Feb 2 2010, 06:16:31 pm

      I own Inovio for most of the reasons in the article. I think a better “speculation” is Prima Biomed” (PRR) on the Australian Stock Ex. Their C-Vac product for ovarian cancer uses similar technology as Dendreon’s Provenge and is in a phase llB study in Seattle for patients who have undergone initial surgery for this disease. The disease nearly always re-occurs following surgery and there is no effective treatment at present.

    5. VegasMarino
      Feb 2 2010, 11:40:40 pm

      I own the stock and have for the past 3 years as well. Ive seen it’s highs and its lows and will continue to stay in for a number of reasons. The article above failed to mention any of the big scientist that have recently signed on as well as the new Cheif Medical Officer from Merck. The difference between this company and others in the industry is that they are building a very strong team of scientist, advisors, and executives. It also fails to mention any of the success that it has had compared to others during their trials. Want to know more details just check out their news section on their website because this company has a lot to offer. Either way its a fun stock to own.

    6. Mark L. Bowin
      Feb 3 2010, 12:42:20 am

      I wonder about their cash burn rate. I know nothing about the company but had the sad experience of owning Decode Genetics, DCGN, paying about $9 a share. They had (and still have) wonderful technology, but when the stock dropped under $5, I bailed because I saw how quick they were going through cash with little income. Now what’s left of it is pennies. Cavaet Emptor with all of these.

    7. kbamfield
      Feb 3 2010, 03:13:05 am

      using electricity to jiggle cells seems to be a bit gimmicky to me. more smoke and mirrors in biotech worlds.
      25 years is too long to burn money and nothing to show for it.
      10 years yes.
      the latest technology seems to be by integrating the drug payload in a man made (dendrimer) shape. this provides targeted delivery therefore using less of the drug and so more effective and less toxic to the patient. think chemo thereapy and anti cancer drugs.
      check out ASX:SPL and contracts signed with Lilly drug company this week, to do just that.

    8. Alex Carne
      Feb 3 2010, 01:13:12 pm

      As a scientist,now retired,I would just like to comment on the fact that electroporation has been around for many years as a means to introduce large molecules into cells.The DNA side of this therapy will be the make or break of this company.

    9. Markus
      Feb 6 2010, 10:53:17 pm

      Personally I prefer Omni Bio Pharmaceutical (OMBP). It is a bit of a crapshoot (like most new pharmas) but all the promo info is very promising and it is affiliated with the Univ of Colorado Med School and the principals all seem to have excellent reputations — it could be a $30+ stock or it could go to $5 — over the next few years.

    10. Peter
      Feb 8 2010, 01:21:02 pm

      NNVC also has a NanoViricides OTCBB also has transformational nano-tech enabled viral drugs .Yes also a gamble but at about $1.03 per share not much on the downside, but if the cards fall our way mucho dinero on the upside. Allan at http://www.allallanblogspot.com says that if you buy 10,000 shres today , it should be worth 1 MILLION by 2014…Who really knows?

    11. Kevin Connors
      Feb 10 2010, 01:29:41 pm

      What stock is this = ” Daily Wealth ” The Death of Death”

    12. Future1investor
      Feb 14 2010, 11:38:47 am

      A friend made just over 2,000% when his bio-pharma was a fraction of a penny. Its like throwing darts at a board hoping to score. The risk is more palatable when it is super cheap. Many of us throw away thousands a year on dumb stuff of all sorts which have no long-term practicality. Though we’d all like to say that we practice 100% investigative research into our choices, it just isn’t true. It comes down to chance and the best educational guess, especially in micro-cap bio-pharma. Its not like other equities in the market which have something more tangible to compare with. IMHO bio-pharma is more like a roulette game. One that has to be played with little expectation but carefully, and with money you have no hope of recovering (till the big payoff happens; IF it happens). If you carefully play these but do it like you’re playing the lottery, you won’t feel let down when you don’t win eventually. Commit your time to things that are far easier to track and trend. Reserve micro-cap bio-pharma to your pocket change.

    13. Robert Cohen of Georgia USA
      Feb 14 2010, 12:43:29 pm

      Vaccine(s), particularly against

      I am long Geovax, which is down, near fourteen cents currently


      Apparently, Emory University animal research involved,
      and holds a few shares which was
      what has attracted me

    14. Dan Day
      Feb 14 2010, 01:55:46 pm

      Good Article!
      I get news letters from green chip stocks and also recieve articles from Steve Christ’s The Wealth Advisory. Although I am sure that these people know a whole lot more than I do I have been burned on some of their choices. It is nice to see someone checking on them because they charge for this info.

      Thanks, Dan.

    15. Nicholas
      Feb 18 2010, 03:26:12 am

      I love these kinds of information with symbols that you can look up and go to the company.This kind of letter is awesome and just keep them coming so we can understand more about the pharma world and what they look at to kill some of these diseases that are starting to take over in different generations.

    16. ralph armendariz
      Mar 4 2010, 02:16:09 pm

      you all seem to be looking for a stock how about hdvy i held this stock since the beginning, i was impressed by their portfolio of patents of algorithims in medicine. basically x squared + y squared.
      with all the recent good news it shoul be a dollar stk, but no it is still trading under 30 cents, so you still have time to hop on.

    17. tomt
      Mar 4 2010, 05:00:07 pm

      Good call Travis, and great comments. So far, cures have typically taken decades of research and $billions in many cases- think Am. heart Asso., Am. Cancer Soc. etc. funding for 40 years.
      I’ve fell for a few of these biotech story stocks, bet too much and had to bail out.
      Future1Investor is right- play with small bets, as it may be years before treatments hit the market, or a buyout emerges. You can always up the ante along the way, if there is reason to.

    18. chris
      Mar 21 2010, 09:28:01 am

      From AUS yes agree above comments RE: SPL and PRR on the ASX Australia. PRR should see some major announcement later this year if not sooner!!!!

    19. Bela
      Mar 21 2010, 07:57:38 pm

      Energy and Capital's Weekend Edition
      Sent By: "Energy and Capital" <eac-eletter@angelnexus.com>
      On:Mar 03/20/10 12:54
      The Death of Death
      Brian Hicks
      Publisher, The Wealth Advisory
      … your immune system 1,000 times more effective…
      …genetic vaccines utilize the virus' own DNA, which is genetically altered …been developing this particular technology for the past 14 years…
      … second part of the technology that is making this small biotech firm a key player in the vaccine industry…The Man-made Miracle of "Cell-Shock" Technology…
      …less-than-$1.50 shares,… a market cap of under $120 million
      … company has received over $25.1 million from both the government and various philanthropists and charities …

    20. inez d. e. altar
      Mar 26 2010, 07:48:20 pm

      after all this is a cynical repugnant industry, yearly miracle cures are claimed to be found either they are bogus, or the doctors do not want to give up their prophylactic examination industry. As a moral investor I would steer clear of the whole thing, let them put in practice those wonder cures they already have.Enter text right here!

    21. researcher
      Mar 27 2010, 12:10:39 am

      As a 35 year veteran in this research area, and a former head of research for a couple of national firms [now all chapter 11], the bottom line comment, from a science point of view, is buy in at ten cents per share and hold for 7 years. Still, a long — or very long — shot. The hurdles are too numerous to mention, but trust me — a huge number. I would buy 10,000 shares at a $1000 and give them to a grandchild as a lottery ticket.

    22. Glenn Knight
      Mar 28 2010, 12:02:41 am

      If one of these biotecs does have a break through, my major fear is that big pharma don't want cures they want treatments because they pay better. If they wanted to cure cancer they would work on Laetrile Vitamin B17 rather than making mega money with chemo with little to no chance of success.

    23. 2ho noze
      Mar 28 2010, 02:48:09 am

      generex gnbt was mentioned bu fuerstein???f frm the street really ripped intothem w.. avolumeone then a volume 2 big scam

    24. Diana
      Apr 3 2010, 02:58:06 pm

      4/4/10 'FDA $300m Loophole Opportunity" Anyone have opinions or even potential answers? Motley Fool's 4/4/10 and others teasing 3/10 to present. Thank you, Diana

    25. Will
      Apr 12 2010, 10:00:44 am

      2ho noze…

      If the text colour is light (as you infer). Just select the text with your mouse or press [ctrl]+[a] – to Select all the text. This makes it easier to read (i.e. white text on a blue background when selected)


    26. camp
      Apr 15 2010, 05:09:37 pm

      DLST: I was given less than two years from conventional medicine. They told me to go home and die, get my affairs in order, there wasn't ANYTHING they could do for me. They are EXPERIMENTING with stem cell and T-cell transplants for what I have, but can't keep anyone alive afterwards for more than a few months. I turned to alternative medicine that used things they big pharmas threw out….becuase no one could patten it and no one could make money on it and they CURED ME<> It ihas been nearly 7 yeasrs since your "placebo" cured me and since I have watched many others be cured from things poeple usually die from by using that plaeco! You go right on living your "you are smarter than the rest of us" attitude and we will be cured right under your noses of very real cancers that mainstreem can't cure or won't since it takes away all their money making abilities! They cure cancer and they all go out of business. You live in a fairy tale if you think that people aren't corrupted by a multi trillion dollar business! I'm going back to living my very healthy life I am not supposed to be here for! LOL

    27. wes
      May 7 2010, 08:53:21 pm

      I own INO….also take a very close look at NPHC which just introduced breakthrough painkiller Cobroxin. It is more powerful than Morphine, but no side affects and is not addictive.

      They are also developing a peptide to treat MS that has already demonstrated ability to reverse symptoms in the phase 1 trial.

    28. john sanders
      May 8 2010, 03:42:02 pm

      i have been sent home to die, by the biggest hospital in Tex. stage four cancer of the lungs the spine, that is totally collapsed, and stage four of the esophagus, they game me six months, to live, i am now going on twelve months alive and very active by doing the placebo, you keep that idea that there is no cure, i will keep on living without there no cures. and it doesn't cost near what they cost. and let me tell you they do work, im living proof, they just cant make billions on these treatments. r text right here!

    29. Giuseppe Spagnolo
      May 9 2010, 04:40:40 pm

      I would appreciate StockGumshoe reveals details about the ultimate Chinese "Trojan" stock presented in the Phase 1 Investor Newsletter.

    30. Robert
      May 12 2010, 10:01:01 pm

      Ann, google hydrogenPeroxide therapy, also visit educate-yourself.org/h2o2, theoneminutecure.com. Good luck. I had cancer and used the inhaling method and I am cancer free and diabetes free plus my eyesight is better than ever, all in a very short time.

    31. Chloe_Frank
      May 21 2010, 01:08:06 am

      Those looking for more info on authentic health care, read Suzanne Somer's new book KNOCKOUT. She interviews several doctors that are curing cancer, yes, you read that right…curing it just like several of you posters have actually experienced. It's very up to date. Your local library probably has it.

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