VGX Animal Health DNA Vaccine for Dogs Could Reduce Tumor Growth and Increase Survival
BLUE BELL, Pa., June 17, 2011 /PRNewswire/ — Inovio Pharmaceuticals, Inc. (NYSE Amex: INO) announced today that its subsidiary VGX Animal Health, Inc., a developer of DNA-based vaccines and therapies for companion and food animals, has achieved strong T cell responses from VAH-5000D, its DNA vaccine encoding telomerase reverse transcriptase (TERT) for the treatment of dogs with cancer. This preclinical data was presented by Dr. Douglas Kern, DVM, VGX Animal Health’s Vice President of Business Development, at VetHealth Global 2011, an international animal health conference.
In mouse experiments, vaccinations with a highly optimized TERT DNA vaccine delivered by electroporation induced strong TERT-specific T cell immune responses. Furthermore, vaccination with the TERT vaccine delayed the growth of implanted tumors in mice and increased the survival rate of mice with tumors.
“We are pleased to see promising results in animal trials with our optimized TERT vaccine for dogs,” said Dr. Kern. “Because of the prevalence of TERT in tumors, we believe that a canine specific TERT vaccine could become the go-to ‘universal’ cancer vaccine for dogs.”
TERT is a catalytic subunit of the enzyme telomerase. Telomerase lengthens telomeres, which are structures at the end of chromosomes (DNA strands in the nucleus of all cells). Telomeres protect the ends of chromosomes from destruction and normal cell death. The mammalian cell divides anywhere from 60-100 times throughout its life cycle. Each time this division occurs, telomeres are shortened until they no longer serve to protect the chromosome. This is the basis for the aging process in mammals. When telomerase begins to function abnormally, the cell can become immortal. This process is thought to be important in the development of several types of cancer. Human TERT (hTERT) has been proposed as a cancer-specific target, since it is almost exclusively over-expressed in tumor tissue compared to normal tissue in humans, i.e. 85% of the time its presence is in tumors. There is no other tumor-associated gene that is as widely expressed in cancers.
Therapeutic vaccines directed against the crucial telomerase protein TERT offer the potential to stimulate the rapid killing of tumor cells by enhancing the activity of telomerase-specific T cells. Such vaccines are being tested in human trials in leukemia and renal, prostate, lung, skin, pancreatic and breast cancer. For instance, Merck has licensed Inovio’s electroporation delivery technology to deliver its DNA vaccine encoding hTERT in an ongoing Phase I clinical trial. Inovio is in preclinical development of its more optimized SynCon(TM) hTERT DNA vaccine candidate for treating human cancer targets. VGX Animal Health is developing its canine-specific TERT DNA vaccine product, VAH-5000D, for the treatment of dogs with cancers.
About VGX Animal Health
VGX Animal Health is developing DNA-based vaccines and therapies for companion and food animals utilizing proprietary plasmid-based DNA delivery and expression technology to optimize an animal’s natural biological and immunological potential. The company is a majority-owned subsidiary of Inovio Pharmaceuticals, Inc. (NYSE Amex: INO).
About Inovio Pharmaceuticals, Inc.
Inovio is developing a new generation of vaccines, called DNA vaccines, to treat and prevent cancers and infectious diseases. Its SynCon(TM) vaccines are designed to provide broad cross-strain protection against known as well as newly emergent strains of pathogens such as influenza. These vaccines, in combination with Inovio’s proprietary electroporation delivery devices, have been shown to be safe and generate significant immune responses. Inovio clinical programs include three Phase II studies for vaccines treating cervical dysplasia/cancer, hepatitis C virus, and leukemia. Other clinical programs target influenza (preventive) and HIV (preventive and therapeutic). Inovio partners and collaborators include the University of Pennsylvania, Merck, ChronTech, National Cancer Institute, U.S. Military HIV Research Program, NIH, HIV Vaccines Trial Network, University of Southampton, and PATH Malaria Vaccine Initiative. More information is available at www.inovio.com.
This press release contains certain forward-looking statements relating to our business, including our plans to develop electroporation-based drug and gene delivery technologies and DNA vaccines and our capital resources. Actual events or results may differ from the expectations set forth herein as a result of a number of factors, including uncertainties inherent in pre-clinical studies, clinical trials and product development programs (including, but not limited to, the fact that pre-clinical and clinical results referenced in this release may not be indicative of results achievable in other trials or for other indications, that the studies or trials may not be successful or achieve the results desired, that results from one study may not necessarily be reflected or supported by the results of other similar studies and that results from an animal study may not be indicative of results achievable in human studies), the availability of funding to support continuing research and studies in an effort to prove safety and efficacy of electroporation technology as a delivery mechanism or develop viable DNA vaccines, the adequacy of our capital resources, the availability or potential availability of alternative therapies or treatments for the conditions targeted by the company or its collaborators, including alternatives that may be more efficacious or cost-effective than any therapy or treatment that the company and its collaborators hope to develop, evaluation of potential opportunities, issues involving product liability, issues involving patents and whether they or licenses to them will provide the company with meaningful protection from others using the covered technologies, whether such proprietary rights are enforceable or defensible or infringe or allegedly infringe on rights of others or can withstand claims of invalidity and whether the company can finance or devote other significant resources that may be necessary to prosecute, protect or defend them, the level of corporate expenditures, assessments of the company’s technology by potential corporate or other partners or collaborators, capital market conditions, our ability to successfully integrate Inovio and VGX Pharmaceuticals, the impact of government healthcare proposals and other factors set forth in our Annual Report on Form 10-K for the year ended December 31, 2010, our Form 10-Q for the three months ended March 31, 2011, and other regulatory filings from time to time. There can be no assurance that any product in Inovio’s pipeline will be successfully developed or manufactured, that final results of clinical studies will be supportive of regulatory approvals required to market licensed products, or that any of the forward-looking information provided herein will be proven accurate.
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