Thanks to a partnership between a global software firm and an early-stage biotech player, the day will soon come when anyone who needs a transplant will just "print" the needed tissue. Here's the idea...
- These Five Biotech Firms Will Literally Change the World
- "Bionic Eyes" Could Make Blindness a Thing of the Past
- This Tiny Startup Has Scored "Microchip Medicine" Breakthrough
- Man-Made Proteins Put a New Twist on Evolution – And They Fight the Flu
- 5 Ways to Spot the Next Hot Biotech Stock
- How "Nano Gold" Could Revolutionize Biotech
- Biotech Stocks: How to Invest in the Buyout Binge
- Biotech Stocks Will be Fueled by Takeovers in 2011
- Which Stocks and Sectors Will Shine as Market Fear Subsides?
- Agri-Biotech Giant Monsanto Moves into its Newest Venture: Biofuels From Prairie Grasses
Standard flu vaccine technology is hopelessly outdated. Many vaccines are still grown inside chicken eggs. There's a very real threat that a new strain of flu will hit - one for which there is no vaccine. (That's what happened with SARS.)
Small wonder DARPA - the shadowy research and development arm of the Pentagon - just jumped to fund the work of this tiny biotech firm...
The company is pioneering a ground-breaking new process that uses tobacco plants instead of eggs to produce the recombinant proteins that are the key to vaccines. This dramatically cuts the time it takes to manufacture and can be done 10 times cheaper than a conventional facility.
In other words, this penny stock firm is revolutionizing a $30 billion industry...
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.
It will help us cure cancer, rid us of the scourge of Alzheimer's, and make 100-year life spans routine. Not only that, but we will lead much healthier and more intelligent lives as a result.
I've followed this field for more than 20 years and have never seen so many advances coming so quickly.
Of course, a big part of that stems from the fact that we have passed the tipping point in other forms of cutting-edge tech the biosciences have adopted -- faster computers, better sensors and tiny digital circuits.
And now that we have a complete map of the human genome, biotech has reached critical mass. Add it all up and you have an unending series of advances that will redefine life in the Era of Radical Change.
To help make sense of the profound impact this will have on our lives, I have compiled a list of five firms that are pushing biotech into new realms.
Each has accomplished a major breakthrough. Take a look...
Biotech Firm No. 1: Spinal Cord TherapyTalk about a brilliant breakthrough. InVivo Therapeutics Holdings Corp. (OTC:NVIV) has a radical new way of treating spinal cord injuries (SCIs).
And it's moving fast. The firm expects to get FDA clearance to begin human trials later this year.
Some of you were excited by the possibilities. Take Matt:
"As someone who has bounced back from a severe head injury 25 years ago to do things the brain injury rehab team told me would simply not be possible - complete my bachelor's degree as well as a master's, get married, and subsequently raise a son on my own as a single parent, etc. - I am especially excited about the possibilities at the juncture of neurological research, computing technology, and prosthetics. I will be overjoyed when the day comes that I can once again use both my hands to type 100 words/minute with few to no mistakes, like I could when I first learned to type on an electric typewriter, nearly 40 years ago."
On the other hand, several of you thought it sounded like a nightmare. Here's what Claire had to say:
"Transhumanism is a dark future that is presented as wonderful, but which will alienate those who embrace it from their humanity... Not for me, I would rather remain human."
Either way, it seems bionic tech is actually moving faster than I thought...
Restoring Sight to the Blind
You may recall that I cited two examples of future devices to enhance your eyes. One is a pair of contact lenses, and the other is an implant that would go in your retina. Both could access the wireless Web to keep you connected to the world's vast database of knowledge, wherever you are.
Well, it's come out that at least two companies hope to start selling bionic eyes in the U.S. within the next 16 months.
Neither of these designs is made to surf the Web. Instead, these cutting-edge breakthroughs could help millions of blind or visually impaired people to see again.
Take a look...
It's a "pill" as big as a grain of sand and it could also mean huge profits for Big Pharma companies in the not-too-distant future.
You see, each year millions of American s throw away tons of unused drugs. What happens is they start feeling better and just stop taking their meds. Eventually those pills get tossed in the trash can.
No one seems to know the full dollar value of all those unused drugs but many experts say this waste costs Big Pharma millions in profits in lost refills.
Not only that, but doctors around the world worry about the rise of drug-resistant bacteria which also stems from patients not taking their full regimen of antibiotics.
It's why doctors always tell their patients to take all their antibiotics even after they feel better. Otherwise, the few germs that manage to survive become more powerful and thwart the effects of stronger drugs taken at larger doses.
Enter a tiny new startup called Proteus Digital Health Inc. The company has developed a new electronic sensor that could transform the way millions of Americans manage their drug intake.
The move puts Proteus front and center in the hot new field of "microchip medicine."
Experts call it that because patients either swallow a microchip that releases doses into the bloodstream or ingest a small medical monitor like the one Proteus makes.
Proteus has the backing of a dozen firms. They include:
- Novartis AG (NYSE: NVS), one of the world's biggest drug makers.
- Medtronic Inc. (NYSE: MDT), a big-cap medical device firm.
- Kaiser Permanente Ventures, the venture arm of the large HMO.
- On Semiconductor (NASDAQ: ONNN), a mid-cap maker of chips and other devices.
They are set to become huge change agents in the high-tech world of the very near future.
Some of you may have already heard the recent news that doctors believe they can use these compounds to help fight the flu.
The major media was all over this angle. And no doubt, it's an important advance.
In the U.S. alone, 200,000 people get so sick from the flu they have to go to the hospital each year. U.S. health officials say as many as 50,000 people die.
The version of synthetic protein that can help boost your immune system to fight the flu is called EP67.
Earlier this month, a team from San Diego State University and the University of Nebraska Medical Center tested the substance on mice - with great results.
In a paper that ran in the journal PLoS One, they said mice given a lethal dose of the flu survived after getting an injection of the protein. What's more, it could be used to guard against other diseases, as well.
"Since EP67 works by stimulating local innate immunity, it should prove effective against viral, bacterial and fungal diseases," said Joy Phillips, the study's lead author. She noted said they still need to test the protein on larger mammals and humans.
There is a catch - you have to get a dose of EP67 within 24 hours of exposure to the bug for it to be effective.
Still, clearly, synthetic proteins could have a huge impact on public health.
Yet I believe the media missed the real story.
With a hot new field of science known as "directed evolution," scientists will do far more than treat disease.
They may just redesign our digital universe.
How Directed Evolution WorksThe idea is pretty simple. Genetic engineers apply evolutionary design methods to biological systems.
In this way, they seek to "evolve" proteins and organisms that have unique aspects not found in nature. They can have useful applications in medicine, alternative energy, and the like.
Making sense of this new advance requires us to take a look at proteins from a unique point of view.
But here is what you need to know about biotech stocks: none of them are created equal.
For all their potential, bio tech stocks remain among the most challenging for investors like you to identify, select and earn money on.
However, with a little bit of the right guidance you can narrow your list to the stocks with the highest likely upside.
In fact, I've developed a five- point checklist of what I look at when screening biotech stocks that I'd like to share with you.
It may not be a road map. The biotech sector just isn't that easy and "x" almost never marks the spot.
But it is a great place to start if you are serious about separating the pretenders from the contenders.
Five Steps for Successful Biotech Stock Investors
As you begin to break down a potential stock consider the following as it relates to your decision.
1) Choose your niche.Biotech is a big term and an even bigger sector. There are literally thousands of companies trying to make their move in everything from vaccines to nano-technology.
There's quite literally no way you can know everything, so stick to the parts of the sector you believe have the biggest potential.
For instance, I think some of the biggest innovations and profits will come from bio tech companies that link living systems with their digital counterparts.
So I tend to concentrate my biotech investments in companies that are exploring synthetic biology and computational bioinformatics.
To me it's a no brainer.
While there is no question that traditional bio tech will be big, over the next few years we will see the line blur very rapidly between what we need to live and how we actually live - aided by technology.
Admittedly, I have a rather selfish reason...
I was touched that so many of you wrote in to share your own stories about watching a loved one battle cancer, or having been through it yourself. No doubt it's a terrible disease.
That's why today I want to talk about another cancer breakthrough that epitomizes this new era.
It's found in gold.
As it turns out, gold is a natural-born killer of unhealthy human cells. It has distinct properties that make it ideal for linking medical science with the new field of nanotech.
I believe the yellow metal will play a vital role in the Era of Radical Change, in which human beings routinely live healthy, productive lives well into our hundreds. And gold's growing use in both biotech and nanotech will greatly expand our chances to score big stock gains, too.
A new kind of gold rush has started. And not only can you make money from it - it could also save the human race from the most deadly diseases.
I predict that by the end of this decade, gold will be used as a lethal weapon in the battle against a wide range of killer tumors.
It has to do with so-called gold nanoparticles.
The odds are good you've seen "nano gold" in the past but didn't even know it. If you've ever looked at a photo of stained-glass windows in old medieval European churches, the red and yellow in those scenes came from nanoparticles of gold and silver embedded in the glass.
Fact is, we've been putting these tiny specks of gold to use, in one form or another, for centuries. But they've only lately become a key tool for fighting disease and making new medical discoveries.
Take the recent breakthrough from a team at Stanford University.
Scientists there used nano gold to find and highlight aggressive forms of brain tumors. They used tiny gold spheres so small it boggles the mind - they measured less than five one-millionths of an inch in diameter. Each piece of nano gold was coated with an agent that allowed the tiny balls to be viewed with three different types of body imaging techniques.
In this test at Stanford, team members found they could see and remove tumors marked by nano gold from the brains of mice with the highest degree of accuracy reported to date.
Here's why that's so important.
Right now, some of their most-lucrative blockbuster drugs are coming "off patent" - meaning they face the loss of $170 billion in annual sales.
But I'm going to let you in on a secret that Wall Street investment pros hope the little guy never learns: The very same problem that has Big Pharma execs wringing their hands even as you read this is also creating one of the biggest profit opportunities we've seen in years.
To show you what I mean, allow me to tell you two quick stories.
The Secret Path to Biotech ProfitsLate in my business journalism career, I spent three years covering the biotech sector.
Let me tell you: That reporting job brought me to a very quick understanding of just how challenging this business really is.
Wall Street and Big Pharma executives beat the drum about their successes - the new "miracle drugs" that treat or cure obesity, arthritis, depression and cancer. We hear about those achievements all the time.
What I found in my reporting, however, was that the failures dwarf the success stories.
The failure numbers are actually downright mind-numbing.
For every 1,000 "compounds" (drug candidates) that enter laboratory testing, only one will ever make it to human testing.
Indeed, once a company develops a drug, it's usually looking at about three-and-a-half years of testing in the lab before it can even apply to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for approval to begin testing in humans.
Of all the drug candidates that enter Phase I trials - the first of three phases that mark the path to FDA approval - only one in five ever makes it to market.
The bottom line, as I discovered, is this: It can take 10 to 12 years and $1 billion or more to develop a new drug.
For Big Pharma CEOs who are staring at eroding patent coverage and searching for replacement blockbusters, that's too much time and way too much risk.
They're not abandoning internal drug development. But they're also pursuing an alternative strategy: Sniff out the small players already developing the new potential blockbusters and either buy the drug, or buy the company outright.
That urgent multi-billion-dollar shopping spree is going on right now... boosted to the max by a need to keep boards and shareholders happy.
As Merck & Co. (NYSE: MRK) CEO Kenneth Frazier recently told an investor group: "My goal is to augment the pipeline. The way to augment is to find those assets that we can acquire."
That's easier said than done.
For one thing, Big Pharma/Big Biotech companies are fat with cash. That means there's a lot of competition in the search for new drugs or entire companies to buy. For another, there's a "scarcity of growth assets," as Goldman Sachs Group Inc. (NYSE: GS) said in a new report.
Although that supply/demand scenario is a tough one for Big Pharma, it's a terrific one for investors like us: It puts pressure on the suitors to buy whatever's available. And it means the prices will be high when they do.
And, as my second story demonstrates, those deals do happen.
In fact, our subscribers recently reaped a big payday from just that kind of deal.
That's because mergers and buyouts in the industry have far outpaced the sector's overall growth rate, which in recent years has been sluggish. Indeed, IMS Health, a leading research and analytical firm serving the pharmaceutical and medical industries, projects only a slight increase in worldwide growth in 2011 - 5% to 7% versus a pace of 4% to 5% this year - with a similarly restrained outlook stretching out to 2015.
By contrast, virtually every major player in pharmaceuticals worked at least one M&A deal in 2010. That trend is expected to continue, if not accelerate, in the years ahead as drug companies look to broaden product lines, replace revenues lost to patent expiration and expand into emerging markets, where the industry growth rate is much higher in than in the developed nations.
From this point of view, stocks are broadly recovering from their most oversold condition since March of last year -- and the release of the energy stored up then persisted at near-full strength for three months.
To find out which stocks are positioned for profit, .