Big Pharma Continues the Race for Electroporation

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The interest in electroporation has been validated with two high-profile partnerships in the last six months. Roche’s partnership with Inovio (NYSEMKT:INO) and Pfizer’s (NYSE:PFE) partnership with Ichor makes you wonder what’s next for electroporation, why big pharma has shown a sudden interest, and which company will likely earn the next big pharma partnership.

Roche strikes first

Electroporation is a delivery platform that uses an electrical pulse to create temporary pores in cells. An agent is then used in conjunction with electroporation at lower doses than what would normally be delivered systematically to produce a more potent effect with fewer side effects.

The effects of this process have been confirmed in countless small trials, both in treating cancer and infectious diseases. Most notably, these proven results have been displayed by Inovio. Roche felt that Inovio’s small studies were enough to warrant an investment, as Roche agreed on a $10 million upfront payment with milestone payments that could exceed $400 million. Hence, this is a rather large investment on behalf of Roche, and it’s worth noting that Inovio has a slew of clinical trials. Yet its partnership with Roche includes just two preclinical DNA immunotherapies targeting prostate cancer (INO-5150) and hepatitis B (INO-1800).

Not only did Roche’s interest help to validate the use of electroporation to treat diseases, but it also indicates significant upside, as the rights to only two preclinical programs were included. This shows that either Inovio was unwilling to partner on its more advanced programs or that it wanted more money. Regardless, $400 million in potential payments is quite a deal for two preclinical programs, a fact that can’t be denied.

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