Most biotech stocks are growth plays, so you'll almost never find one that pays anything more than a bare bones dividend. But this company has a distinct advantage that allows it to reward its shareholders - big-time. Michael Robinson explains.
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how to invest in biotech companies
There's a deadly problem with one of the nation's major medical markets - vaccines.
The technology we use today to prevent diseases like the flu, chicken pox, and polio is hopelessly outdated.
It still relies on the delivery of a portion of the actual virus to the patient to develop immunity. Some of these agents are still grown in chicken eggs, just like they were back in the 1930s. And the vaccines themselves or their additives can still make people sick.
But what if you could develop a whole new class of vaccines that were actually safe using a synthetic DNA? Better yet, what if you could vaccinate yourself against HIV, cervical cancer, leukemia, and hepatitis?
The payoff would be tremendous...
For example, teams all over the world are now in their labs looking to create novel biotech compounds or drugs by inserting synthetic DNA into cells, either living or artificial. They're also growing new microorganisms that yield biofuels to be used in lieu of oil.
Trouble is, the process is so complex that it can take days to synthesize these man-made genes, usually in small batches.
Not only is it time consuming, but it requires the use of costly robots and other advanced gear. Simply stated, if someone came along with a breakthrough that greatly speeded up the development of synthetic genes, it could affect several industries at once, not to mention its own value in the market.
Allow me to introduce you to Gen9 Inc. The company is blazing a trail in the development of scalable technologies for synthesizing genes.
Now, Gen9 is a small, new dynamic company. And its potential is huge.
It was formed last summer around a unique new device that greatly speeds up the process of creating synthetic DNA.
Even better, it cuts the cost of that process by leaps and bounds.
Next June, the nine justices are expected to settle - once and for all - whether companies can patent human genes in the United States.
The Patent and Trademark Office has been issuing patents on DNA for nearly 30 years, according to Bloomberg Businessweek.
Roughly 4,000 of the 22,000 human genes now have some form of patent.
But the American Civil Liberties Union has challenged the practice in Association for Molecular Pathology v. Myriad Genetics. Now that case will go to the highest court in the country.
At heart, the legal question sounds simple: Does Myriad Genetics Inc. (NasdaqGS:MYGN) have the right to patent two genes that signal whether a woman is at higher risk of getting cancer of the breasts or ovaries?
Myriad of course did not invent or create the breast cancer predisposition genes, referred to as BRCA genes.
But it did create something called the BRACAnalysis test that looks for mutations on these genes. Those mutations are associated with much greater risks of breast and ovarian cancer.
Usually firms cannot get that kind of market protection for something that is clearly a product of nature. But in this case, Myriad has developed a process of extracting a gene that makes the resulting molecule novel and chemically different from DNA that naturally occurs in our bodies.
And, after all, it took Myriad 17 years and $500 million to develop the test. Without barriers to entry, other firms could simply come in, take advantage of all that costly effort and sell a knockoff for less money.
Even if that weren't illegal, it's obviously unfair.
Let's dig into the case and why it matters to you...
Here's why: biotech stocks have been in a stealth bull market in 2012.
In fact, the values of the 230 publicly-traded biotech companies tracked by the BioWorld Stock Report have jumped by an average 38% year-to-date.
The third quarter was especially hot. The Nasdaq Biotechnology Index rose 10% over that time frame and is up a healthy 37% this year.
And, nothing is hotter than companies focused on the battle against cancer.
Take Medivation Inc. (Nasdaq: MDVN), for example. This California-based biotech has jumped from $23 to $46 a share, largely on the approval of Xtandi, its novel prostate cancer drug.
Thousands of other experimental drugs are going through various stages of clinical trials, and the largest category in the pipeline is cancer drugs. With that in mind, it's safe to say that if you're looking for a stock with big upside potential, cancer-driven biotech stocks should be high on your list. Biotech Stocks: Cancer Research is Paying Off
A cancer diagnosis was once a death sentence -- especially if you were diagnosed with the disease in its late stages.
But, both government and industry have spent vast sums in the last decade researching how cancers develop and spread.
And now all that investment is starting to pay off -- recent clinical trials and treatment breakthroughs show real promise.
The newest cancer research focuses on three fronts.