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Hottest Socially Responsible Investments: Regenerative Medicine and Biotech
Barely a day goes by when regenerative medicine or stem cell research isn’t mentioned in the news. Under the Bush administration it was presented as a controversial topic; more recently in 2009, Obama signed Executive Order 13505, paving the way to accelerated progress in the field.
Innovators like Anthony Atala of Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine are being celebrated as heroes. He and his team have been able to “grow” simple organs from stem cells in-vitro, which have then been successfully transplanted into patients. Unlike traditional organ transplants, plagued with the possibility of organ rejection, Atala’s method works flawlessly. The only challenges in sight are that the research has been extremely time-intensive, partially due to underfunding.
This world-challenging technology is an excellent option for long-term investors, not those looking for a quick buck. The science is there and it works. Now business needs to step in and integrate it into the mainstream medical system. That’s going to take billions and an uncertain amount of time. One thing that is certain however, is the investors who get in before the time of transition in hospitals will see the greatest return on investment.
Biotech / Gene Therapy
Amazingly, applications of biotechnology date back to ancient times, brewing beer being among the earliest applications. Once microbiology became better understood in the twentieth century, breakthrough medical treatments such as the antibiotic penicillin became available for medical use.
Today, arguably the most exciting offshoot of biotech is gene therapy. Although still in its infancy, it holds great promise to save lives and prevent the suffering of millions in the future. This is because disease starts at the cellular level. Gene therapy will finally give doctors the ability to treat the root cause of disease, instead of merely dealing with the consequences of it.
The state of our health depends on our DNA. Generally people are unaware that as we age, humans suffer from a type of “data loss”. The telomeres at the tips of DNA wear down over time each time cells divide. Copying errors take place, creating mutations and potentially resulting in age-related disease such as cancer. Once science is able to harness the full potential of gene therapy, even the process of aging itself may be able to be reversed.
Top Five Players to Watch:
ACell (Privately funded: Contact for investment opportunities)
Patented extracellular matrix (ECM) devices allow medical professionals to repair and remodel damaged tissues and organs. Sheets and micronized particles have been especially successful in treating ulcers, post-surgery wounds, and trauma to the skin such as second degree burns.
Amgen (NASDAQ: AMGN)
With head offices in California, Amgen is currently the biggest biotech company in the world. It’s also the most profitable. In 2006 Amgen brought raked in 2,950,000 in net income while competitors like Gilead Sciences and OSI Pharmaceuticals suffered major losses. Over 20,000 employees are working on the treatments for a huge laundry list of conditions including asthma, rheumatoid arthritis, osteoporosis and cancer.
BioTime (AMEX: BTIM)
BioTime has been working with the U.S. Army to treat battlefield injuries. Hextend is a blood plasma extender used to help soldiers dealing with severe blood loss. ESpan and ACTCellerate have hit the market, together enabling researchers to grow human embryonic progenitor cells.
Geron (NASDAQ: GERN)
Geron has built a sound reputation for its involvement in immunotherapy for cancer treatment as well as stem cell treatment for spinal cord injuries. No other company has tested as many compounds that measurably affect telomerase. Two products are currently undergoing clinical trials: Telomerase Inhibitor Drug - Imetelstat (GRN163L) and Telomerase Cancer Vaccine - GRNVAC1 and GRNVAC2.
Sierra Sciences (Privately funded: Contact for investment opportunities)
Sierra Sciences is an offshoot of Geron, founded by William H. Andrews, Ph.D. While working at Geron, Andrews discovered that the treatments they were working on have applications that may slow, stop or even reverse aging. Telomerase are directly responsible for repairing telomeres, a marker of age found at the tips of DNA. Sierra Sciences has screened over 250,000 compounds and have found over 850 telomerase inducers that may be used in future applications.