DNA immunotherapies for hepatitis

Hepatitis is an inflammation of the liver that is caused by viral infection. There are five main types of hepatitis viruses: hepatitis A, B, C, D and E. Of these five types, hepatitis B virus (HBV) and hepatitis C virus (HCV) are of greatest concern because of the severity of problems they can bring to global public health. HBV and HCV could potentially result in severe outbreaks and epidemic spread and are major causes of chronic liver disease that can lead to death.

In the U.S., it is estimated that as many as 5.3 million people—about 1 in every 50 people—are living with chronic HBV or HCV infections. Three to five times more people are living with chronic viral hepatitis infections than with HIV infection and more than 1 million people die each year from disease caused by hepatitis B & C.

Current therapies to treat hepatitis B include treatment to reduce the risk of liver disease and prevent the passing of the infection to others. These treatments include antiviral medications as well as interferon alfa-2b (Intron A), which is associated with side effects such as depression, difficulty breathing and chest tightness. There are currently no treatments that clear the virus from the body.

Current therapies to treat hepatitis C infection include pegylated interferon alfa (Peg-IFN), delivered by weekly injection, and ribavirin (RBV), an antiviral medication that can cause birth defects, generally prescribed in combination with a marketed HCV oral medication. Although treatment for HCV is effective, there are often negative side effects associated with these treatment regimens and the cost of treatment prohibits its introduction into developing countries.

Inovio believes that DNA immunotherapies to treat HBV and HCV would offer physicians powerful tools in the fight against these all-too common infectious diseases. Inovio’s strategy is to advance DNA immunotherapies targeting hepatitis through multiple collaborations to fund and conduct relevant clinical studies, as shown below.

Candidate Vaccine Type Disease Type Target Antigens Collaborator
HBV Synthetic multi-antigen DNA immunotherapy Hepatitis B virus
clades A & C 
Surface & core  Roche
HCV Synthetic multi-antigen DNA immunotherapy Hepatitis C virus genotypes 1a and 1b NS3/4A, NS4B, NS5A GeneOne Life Sciences, Inc.