BLUE BELL, Pa., Jan. 9, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- Inovio Pharmaceuticals, Inc. (NYSE MKT: INO) and its development partner VGX International, Inc. (KSE: 011000) will move Inovio's hepatitis C (HCV) DNA vaccine into a phase I/IIa clinical trial by the end of 2013. This advancement is based on outstanding results of a preclinical study which demonstrated for the first time that a multi-antigen SynCon® HCV vaccine can generate robust T-cell responses not only in the blood but, more importantly, in the liver, an organ known to supress T-cell activity. VGX International is funding all preclinical and clinical development. In preparation for entering clinical trials with its HCV vaccine (INO-8000), Inovio has completed manufacturing of its multi-antigen HCV vaccine and is performing IND (Investigational New Drug application)-enabling toxicity testing in animals. INO-8000 is a SynCon HCV therapeutic vaccine targeting NS3/4A, NS4B, and NS5A proteins of HCV. INO-8000 was designed with Inovio's SynCon process to broadly cover HCV genotypes 1a and 1b, the types that have been most difficult to treat with drug therapies. It is estimated that more than 5 million people in the United States are infected with hepatitis C, and perhaps as many as 200 million around the world. This makes HCV one of the greatest public health threats of this century. HCV vaccine research to date has mostly focused on one area of the virus (the NS3/4A proteins) to induce T-cell responses; however, there has been little research aimed at elucidating whether vaccines targeting proteins other than NS3/4A can induce potent T-cell responses within the liver. In this study, Inovio and its collaborators developed SynCon antigen constructs that targeted three other areas of the HCV virus (NS4B, NS5A and NS5B) and then demonstrated that each vaccine construct expressed its respective protein and that all three constructs induced potent HCV-specific T-cells in mice.