We’ll start off the week with immortality, a common-enough teaser topic in this era of biotech miracles — the pitch is from Michael Robinson for his Nova-X Report, and it’s all about the tremendous advancements that will erase the “expiration date” from our bodies. Sounds appealing, yes? Particularly for those who happen to be in their 50s, 60s and 70s, with a comfortable amount of money in the bank?
Probably it’s not so much a coincidence that this demographic (wealthier white dudes in or near retirement) is also the core target audience for investment newsletters. But I digress… what is the story from Michael Robinson, and is the stock of any interest? Let me sift through the clues for you and I can at least name the stock for you — after that you’re on your own unless some of our biotech investing cognoscenti decide to chime in, trying to estimate the value of a pre-commercial biotech stock makes my hair start to fall out.
Here’s how Robinson catches our eye:
“Breakthrough Work from Two Nobel Prize Winners, 14 Ph.D.s, and Two M.D.s from MIT, Harvard, Penn, Scripps, and Johns Hopkins, Has Revealed Shocking New Insights into Disease, Aging, and Death Itself. Could We Soon Know…
“How To Live Forever
“When you think of the end of your life, what do you picture?
“Will you leave the world in a few short years, having made a difference?
“Will your family remember you as a strong provider? A loving parent or grandparent? As someone who paved their way for a better future?
“Or will the inevitability of death rob you of the opportunity to provide all the things you once planned on leaving behind?
“If you still have goals and dreams you want to make a reality, then you need to read this letter to the very end.”
Laying it on a bit thick, no?
So what is the actual science here? More from the ad:
“After decades of experimentation, recent human clinical trials, and two Nobel Prize-winning genetic advancements…
“Doctors have discovered an ‘Immortality Gene’ hidden in our DNA.
“And they’ve developed a treatment that could allow us to switch it on.
“This treatment could require as few as four injections a year.
“Besides unlocking our ability to stop aging, these injections could allow us to wind back the biological clock in every one of our cells, and keep them young indefinitely.”
And all of this is apparently closer than you would imagine!
“Clinical tests have already shown that these injections make it possible to reverse the effects of age-related diseases.
“At the Dana-Farber Cancer Center in Boston, doctors used them to shrink a patient’s cancer tumor by 70%.
“In a 76-man study in Leeds, England, just four of these injections a year dropped patients’ cholesterol levels by 77%.
“The treatments that achieved these incredible results are now being pushed through the FDA’s four-phase approval process.
“In as little as 24 months they could be distributed to medical facilities across North America…”
Michael Robinson then takes a small leap to say that he’s pushing this idea to you not necessarily just to make himself a bucketload of cash, but because he wants to make sure everyone’s rich enough to buy these treatments. He thinks if you invest in this idea and get rich, then you’ll be able to afford these “immortality” injections in a few years when they’re approved… since at first, they’ll probably only be available to the wealthy.
“… the amazing fact is that right now, the windfalls from investing in the same small lab that’s bringing this incredible new therapy to the world could pay for your treatments for life.”
Or, I suppose, you could be like everyone else and hope to just get a little boost to your retirement fund from a nice trade or two so you don’t have to move in with your kids or rely too much on Social Security. We’ll see. You can set your own expectations for just how much wealth this (heavily marketed) idea is going to rain down upon you.
How about some more specific clues so we can see if the Thinkolator has an answer for us? Here are a few tidbits from the ad:
“Doctors at the Spanish National Cancer Research Centre successfully switched on the immortality gene in a group of mice, extending their lifespan by 40%.
“At Harvard, doctors repeated this trial with even better results. Lead researcher, Dr. Ronald DePinho, described what they witnessed as the “Ponce de Leon Effect,” referencing the Spanish explorer who searched for the fountain of youth….
“In a 24-week clinical trial, doctors stimulated very low levels of the “immortality gene” in 36 men between the ages of 60 and 85.
“After six weeks, the men’s vision had improved by 20%.
“At 12 weeks, symptoms of erectile dysfunction were disappearing.
“And 24 weeks in, they had a 14% increase in the measurable strength of their immune system.
“By the end of the trial, the men had literally aged backward – on a biological level – between five and 20 years….
“We all have this same ‘Immortality Gene’ hidden inside our DNA.”
That “Immortality Gene” is apparently something scientists have learned about from a handful of animal species who live almost forever — a few jellyfish, crustaceans, some giant tortoises, etc. And if we all have this gene, we just have to “turn it on,” right? I’m not even an electrician, let alone a geneticist, so I don’t even know if that’s the right metaphor — but here are some details about this “switch” that is being teased:
“Through a new process called RNA Therapy, doctors can now switch on or off any gene in our DNA….
“In January of 2015, doctors at Stanford used RNA therapy to reverse 25 years of aging in just a few days. They took 60-year-old human skin and muscle cells and made them 35 again! ….
“RNA therapy has already been proven effective in stopping nine different forms of cancer. It works by shutting down cancerous cells’ ability to replicate….
“… in a clinical trial, after the very first injection, RNA therapy removed every measurable trace of the Hepatitis C virus in 43% of the participants.”
OK, so apparently we’re being teased about a biotech stock that has something to do with RNA therapeutics — there aren’t all that many of them, but let’s check the clues to see if we can name the specific company…
“How the company at the center of this story could pay for your treatments for life.
“They’ve formed strategic partnerships with Stanford, MIT, Harvard, the Mayo Clinic, and Scripps.
“Their network of doctors includes M.D.s and Ph.D.s from Penn Rockefeller University and Massachusetts General.
“They’re working with two Nobel Prize winners, a senior scientist from the Human Genome Project, and no fewer than 12 senior Ph.D.s and M.D.s leading an army of doctors, geneticists, and biologists….”
And he says this company is poised to make a splash in several important multi-billion-dollar markets, like anti-aging, cancer, cardiology treatments and hemophilia — he even throws some numbers around, implying that if they could “just” get 5% of those markets and advance their other research programs they’d be “tapping into” a revenue stream of close to $30 billion. Lots of squishy language in there about the money — which is good, because when you’re this far from large-scale commercial products you’re really just making stuff up.
One more bit of clues for you:
“These are only some of the most advanced RNA therapies.
“There are at least 15 more in the development pipeline, covering everything from big conditions like lung and liver disease, to rare genetic conditions like Amyloidosis and Porphyria.”
So who is it? Thinkolator sez we’re probably looking (again) at Alnylam (ALNY), which was a huge winner for the Oxford Club after they started touting it as the “fountain of youth” company and saying that the “first person to live to 1,000 is already alive” in ads that began running about two years ago. The stock is up 300% or so since those ads started running in the early summer of 2013 — and it has gone from an “extremely early stage” $2 billion company to a “early clinical stage” $9 billion company.
I still don’t know much about the science of this, and I try to avoid trading in individual biotech stocks (don’t want to risk getting too wealthy overnight, after all), so I’ll leave the discussion to the many biotech traders in these parts, or to Dr. KSS if he wishes to chime in. This looks to be a pretty news-heavy year coming up for ALNY — they will have data on most of their clinical-stage programs over the next 6-9 months, nothing is in danger of getting approved just yet… but they’re getting closer. They have replaced their prior strategic plan of “5 in 2015,” which aimed at having five compounds in advanced clinical trials in 2015 (that has been reasonably successful, depending on what you mean by “advanced” — there are five clinical trials underway currently), with a plan to have three marketed products by 2020 (it’s more involved than that, of course, you can see their latest quarterly presentation here for more of the detailed aspirations).
Of course, reading the tea leaves about the potential success of a drug (or a handful of drugs) in five or ten years is not in any way in my wheelhouse — ALNY has had a steady stream of cash coming in from partnerships and stock sales over the years so they’re in decent financial shape, and they haven’t had any really big, expensive long-term clinical trials that they’ve had to pay for yet, but looking at the financials for ALNY is almost pointless other than to determine that they probably won’t have to raise money in the near future … the stock’s movement depends on sentiment about their current clinical trials and whether they continue to advance the RNA therapeutic story and make dreams of future dominance come into somewhat sharper focus.
So with that, I’ll let you get started on your researchification — please let us know if you think ALNY is worth our time and money, just chime in using the friendly little comment box below.