Biotech and Pharma

We can rapidly move Zika and other vaccine studies forward: Inovio CEO

Leading the fight against Zika
Leading the fight against Zika

Inovio Pharmaceuticals' Zika vaccine will be the 14th drug the company has in testing, but its CEO insisted Tuesday the company is not spread too thin and is ready to take on its larger rivals.

Inovio announced Monday its experimental vaccine for the Zika virus received approval from U.S. regulators for an early-stage human trial testing.

"Our pipeline is very full and very productive. We're able to advance a lot of products," president and CEO Joseph Kim said in an interview with "Power Lunch" on Tuesday. "We can rapidly and safely move these programs forward."

The early-stage Zika study will enroll 40 healthy subjects and evaluate safety, tolerability and immune response to the vaccine.

The World Health Organization declared Zika a global health emergency. The illness has been associated with microcephaly, a birth defect characterized by an usually small head and potential developmental problems.

Inovio also has an Ebola vaccine in the pipeline and is competing against the likes of Merck, Johnson & Johnson and GlaxoSmithKline. However, Kim is confident his company can take on its larger rivals.

"We're fortunate enough to have a technology and DNA-based therapies where we can safely and perhaps more efficiently and effectively advance these products," he said.

Meanwhile, its "leading product" for cervical dysplasia is about to enter phase-three studies, said Kim. He downplayed the two-year gap between the drug's phase-two and phase-three studies.

"It takes a long time to take new disruptive technologies for these important diseases forward," he explained.

— Reuters contributed to this report.