The U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) is investing $71 million in Pennsylvania based Inovio Pharmaceuticals in order to expedite the production of the COVID-19 vaccine. In a press release today, Inovio referenced their CELLECTRA® 3PSP and CELLECTRA® 2000 delivery devices, used to administer INO-4800, the name given to their DNA-based vaccine. The company claims to be the "only company with a vaccine in Phase 2 development for a related coronavirus that causes Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS)" and their vaccine is the "only nucleic-acid based vaccine that is stable at room temperature for more than a year and does not require to be frozen in transport or storage"

In the DoD contract, the grant builds on existing funding sources including the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation with an aim, according the the press release, to accelerate the testing phase of CELLECTRA® 3PSP.

Inovio pharmaceutical's COVID-19 Vaccine Development Timeline

"INOVIO is very pleased to receive this significant funding from the U.S. Department of Defense to continue our rapid scale-up capacity for our breakthrough DNA medicines delivery device CELLECTRA®." said Dr. J. Joseph Kim, INOVIO's President and CEO, "We look forward to working closely with DoD, JPEO-CBRND and JPL-CBRND-EB to provide much needed protection to DoD personnel and their families through development of a safe and effective vaccine against COVID-19. This next generation smart device leverages the efficacy delivery and safety track record of an earlier version that has received CE mark certification and has been used in clinical trials to safely dose more than 2,000 patients in over 7,000 administrations of INOVIO's DNA medicines. The current DoD contract further supports INOVIO's large-scale production of devices and arrays to deliver potentially hundreds of millions of doses of INO-4800 next year to combat the global COVID-19 pandemic."

In 2019, Inovio received $8.1 million from the U.S. Defense Threat Reduction Agency's Medical CBRN Defense Consortium for its 3PSP device, above. The device is a "small, portable, hand-held, user-friendly device that runs on 'AA' batteries. The device is designed to function reliably in challenging environments and can be stockpiled in large quantities without maintenance, characteristics that are critical in a pandemic situation."

Inovio's Phase II/III trials are planned for this summer, between July and August.