Imagine a future in which anyone needing a transplant could just create the needed tissue on their home printer.
That day hasn't arrived yet … but it's getting closer all the time.
A partnership between a global software firm and an early-stage biotech player is already promising to transform the field of medical transplants.
And for many patients, that day can't get here soon enough.
Each year here in the U.S. alone more than a million people need some type of new tissue. We're taking everything from heart valves, to corneas for the eyes, to entire hearts and kidneys.
Though we've made huge strides in transplant technology, the sheer number of transplant candidates remains huge – resulting in a bottleneck that's all too often fatal. Each year, more than 6,500 people die while waiting for a donated organ – the equivalent of 18 a day.
In our advanced age of medicine, that's 18 too many.
In the very near future, however, doctors may simply "print" the tissues or organs you need to regain your good health. That's the ultimate goal of a cutting-edge field known as 3D "bioprinting."
The bioprinting initiative has gained enormous momentum because of a new and very important strategic alliance. The project involves one of the world's most respected software leaders and an early-stage biotech firm whose stock is on fire.
With a market cap of nearly $9 billion, Autodesk Inc. (Nasdaq: ADSK) remains the world leader in 3D design, engineering and entertainment software.
Talk about accolades: The last 17 Academy Award winners for best visual effects all relied on Autodesk software to demonstrate their ideas.
These guys know quality when they see it.
And that's a good thing for investors because Organovo Holdings Inc. (OTC: ONVO) has become the "go-to" company in the bioprinting world. Its success at making human tissue from scratch has granted the firm the kind of global cachet no company could afford to pay for.
Consider that this tiny outfit made MIT Technology Review's list of 50 "most innovative companies" for 2012. To get that honor, it soared past thousands of other tech firms to join the ranks of such leaders as Apple, Google and Intel.
Not bad for a company with a mere $220 million market cap…
Of course, it's not every day someone can grow heart tissue from cells and get the material to beat like the real thing. It also has bio-printed arteries from cells it got from human donors.
This is the kind of cutting-edge technology that defines the Era of Radical Change. And the Autodesk-Organovo pact is the kind of business deal we want to watch as investors.
We're talking about the marriage of an Old Guard player with a firm that can truly change the world as we know it – earning investors windfall profits in the process.
Organovo may be the smaller firm, but in the realm of stock profits it's the David that is easily beating Goliath. In the past year, Organovo's stock has gained roughly 225%. Autodesk returned just 0.75%.
Stock profits aside, I believe this team is a natural fit. Autodesk makes the best 3D software money can buy and Organovo is pioneering what is easily the world's most interesting 3D printing application.
Technically speaking, 3D printers don't actually "print" an object. Instead, you make things like auto parts or human jaws by repeatedly adding very thin layers of special materials held together by a binding agent.
Instead of using plastics or metals to print products, Organovo relies on human cells. They become living tissue as successive small layers are laid on top of each other, and the whole assembly is built on a three-dimensional structure.
If nothing else, it's much safer than today's organ transplants. That's because the tissue is created from the patient's own genetic matter. This makes them precise matches for the tissue or organs they replace, so there's little chance of rejection.
Clearly, the world is beating a path to Organovo's door. And for a simple reason – its NovoGen MMX Bioprinter remains the world's only commercial unit that's proven itself capable of creating tissue.
Autodesk brings top-flight software to the alliance. It will be used to control Organovo's machines, yielding a much higher level of quality in the process. And Autodesk's stamp of approval will open hundreds of new doors for Organovo.
And tissue transplants aren't the only opportunity for this biotech duo.
Because Organovo can already produce tissue samples, an even bigger business opportunity in the near term figures to be drug discovery.
You see, drug firms often need a decade or more and spend as much as $1 billion to get new products to market.
By printing human tissue on demand, however, companies may be able to accelerate the development process. If nothing else, these drug-development firms will have vastly more reliable data far before they decide if they want to invest heavily in clinical trials.
Now you know why Organovo has already received the backing of Big Pharma heavyweight Pfizer Inc. (NYSE: PFE). The two firms are collaborating on drug research.
So even though Organovo's stock remains volatile, the firm already has some key ingredients for success in place. This is the type of company and investing opportunity that we are looking for in the Era of Radical Change.
Don't worry if this microcap doesn't appeal to you. I'll soon be telling you about three more ways to play the boom in 3D printing.
And these are three firms I haven't told you about in the past.
So stayed tuned…
[Editor's Note: I want you to know that we've been exceptionally pleased by the big response we've been seeing to my recent ERC columns. We're answering a lot of your queries immediately, and are gathering others together for the Q&A columns that I now intend to publish on a more regular basis. So by all means please continue to leave your comments below, or write to me at CustomerService@EraOfRadicalChange.com. We read everything you send …]
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About the Author
Michael A. Robinson is one of the top financial analysts working today. His book "Overdrawn: The Bailout of American Savings" was a prescient look at the anatomy of the nation's S&L crisis, long before the word "bailout" became part of our daily lexicon. He's a Pulitzer Prize-nominated writer and reporter, lauded by the Columbia Journalism Review for his aggressive style. His 30-year track record as a leading tech analyst has garnered him rave reviews, too. Today he is the editor of the monthly tech investing newsletter Nova-X Report as well as Radical Technology Profits, where he covers truly radical technologies – ones that have the power to sweep across the globe and change the very fabric of our lives – and profit opportunities they give rise to. He also explores "what's next" in the tech investing world at Strategic Tech Investor.