The deal, which could be worth as much as $412.5m, will allow Roche to further develop the vaccines, which have generated robust T-cell responses in animal models, according to Inovio. Roche also acquired exclusive use of Inovio's Cellectra electroporation technology for vaccine delivery.
Roche spokeswoman Emilie Vincent told us, “The electroporation technology delivered via the proprietary Cellectra technology is an integral part of the treatment - the short electrical pulse is facilitating entering of the DNA plasmid to enter cells and it has been shown to substantially increase the immune response to the antigens coded by the administered plasmids. It is planned that any DNA plasmid will be delivered with the electroporation technology.”
Lonza and Life Technologies also offer electroporation technology to their clients. According to Life, electroporation is an effective method for transfection of many cell types, including bacteria and mammalian cells. For some cell types, such and stem cells and primary cells, it may be the only effective transfection method.
Under the terms of the agreement, Roche will make an upfront payment of $10m to Inovio. Roche will also provide preclinical R&D support and payments for near-term regulatory milestones as well as payments upon reaching certain development and commercial milestones potentially up to $412.5m.
Inovio could also earn additional development milestone payments if Roche pursues other indications with the vaccines, known as INO-5150 or INO-1800. In addition, Inovio is entitled to receive up to double-digit tiered royalties on product sales.
Vincent noted that INO-5150, the potential prostate cancer vaccine “is planned to file an IND [Investigational New Drug application with the US FDA] and to start the Phase I in the next few months.”
The potential hepatitis vaccine will take about two years to enter the clinic, Vincent said.