Pennsylvania-based Inovio Pharmaceuticals announced their intention to acquire all needle-free injection devices and intellectual property from Bioject Medical Technologies. Inovio will pay $5.5 million in cash and company stock for the technology, which it plans to combine with its own skin-surface electroporation DNA vaccine administration technique.
Bioject’s ZetaJet delivery system uses an ultra-fine stream of high-pressure fluid to penetrate tiny pores on the skin’s surface, facilitating liquid drug delivery. The company has designed a number of devices for needle-free intramuscular and subcutaneous injections.
According to Inovio, the combination of Bioject’s needle-free injectors and the company’s intracellular delivery using electroporation technology, has resulted in “compelling antigen expression and immune responses in animals.” Inovio plans to apply the combined technologies to their preclinical DNA-based vaccines for Zika, dengue and Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV).
“Our current DNA delivery method is highly effective and already gets the job done,” said Dr. J. Joseph Kim, CEO of Inovio. “However, to fully realize the opportunity of mass immunization against challenging infectious diseases we believed we could create an additional advantage: that is non-invasive vaccine administration.
“Similar to our past acquisitions of Advisys and Inovio AS, this purchase of Bioject’s superior jet injection technology and well-positioned patents is an investment in Inovio’s future. Jet injection alone cannot achieve the utility of DNA vaccines. However, combined with our new needle-free skin-surface electroporation delivery technology we believe we can offer a compelling solution to protect against RSV, ever-changing influenza strains, and emerging infectious diseases like Zika.”
The company is also collaborating with AstraZeneca’s MedImmune on its needle-based drug for cervical dysplasia. The drug – which also incorporates electroporation in its delivery – is currently the lead candidate in a Phase II clinical trial.
Inovio has received significant funding from the NIH and the US Army Small Business Innovation Research program to develop the noninvasive DNA vaccine delivery device. The deal between Inovio and Bioject is expected to close in about 30 days.