Gene Editing: The Cure for Every Disease?

“Don’t be mad.”

Interesting first words to hear when you walk into your girlfriend’s house. To top that, the first thing I saw was her holding a piglet.

If tests on animals continue to be successful, gene editing could be the long-awaited cure for cancer, AIDS and many other diseases.It turns out that she had just bought a pig. To my surprise, she bought it with the intention of keeping it as a pet, rather than frying it. That was a little over a year ago, and we still have Charlotte, who has grown from a 10-pound piglet to a barrel-shaped, 150-pound bundle of joy.

As a pig owner, I have done some research on having them as pets. And one specific thing that I’ve read multiple times is that, despite being so well-insulated, they get cold very easily. This is because they don’t have a specific gene, called thermogenin, that is used to generate heat in the body without shivering. This results in millions of pigs on farms freezing to death every year.

But now, with the discovery of a new technology called the CRISPR-Cas9 system, there’s a way to fix that. With this technology, which MIT Technology Review has called “the biggest biotech discovery of the century,” there is a way to add or remove genes to or from any living thing.

Simply put, the CRISPR-Cas9 system is something that occurs naturally in every living thing as a mechanism to fight off potential viruses. CRISPR is basically the method that bacteria use to identify and destroy viruses that have previously occurred in the body. And then Cas-9, a protein that’s part of the CRISPR system, cuts out and degrades that viral DNA.

But what does this have to do with pigs? Recently, scientists in China used CRISPR to edit pig cells, which successfully edited those pigs’ DNA to carry that one gene. Not only does it help the pig stay comfortable, the internal heat that it produces is also a natural fat burner. This produces less fatty meat, making for a healthier product.

Right now, there are several publicly traded companies that dedicate their entire business around this technology. Although these companies are very speculative at this point, they are part of the future of the treatment of diseases. In fact, this entire industry is going to explode over the next eight to 10 years.

Some Extremely Impressive Things

This year alone, CRISPR has been used to accomplish some extremely impressive things. One recent major discovery was the elimination of HIV infection in live animals.

A well-known, dangerous trait of the HIV virus is that it can lie dormant in someone’s body before suddenly activating. But with CRISPR, the DNA that carries this virus, both active (acute) and dormant (latent), was successfully removed from the animals’ genomes.

Another breakthrough was made when this technology was used to battle cancer in mice carrying prostate and liver cancer cells. The actual gene that was targeted to be removed is called MAN2A1-FER, and it is present in humans as well. In fact, it has been found in aggressive forms of cancer in the prostate, liver, lungs and ovaries.

To combat these cancer cells, CRISPR-edited genes were injected into some of them. As a result, the mice injected with the CRISPR genes saw a tumor size reduction of up to 30% with a 100% survival rate, while the mice that were not given the CRISPR genes did not survive.

If these tests continue to be successful, this form of therapy could be the long-awaited cure for cancer, or, at the very least, an alternative to chemotherapy that does not involve the harmful side effects.

The Breakthrough in CRISPR Technology

Last year, the entire CRISPR-Cas9 market’s revenue was $361 million. But by 2025, that revenue is expected to be about $6 billion. That’s over 1,500% of growth in just nine years.

And a stock in this industry that really caught my eye is Crispr Therapeutics (Nasdaq: CRSP).

Crispr Therapeutics is a small company that has only been publicly traded for about a year. However, it is completely dedicated to this highly anticipated field of gene editing. Of course, this is an industry in its beginning stages, so right now everything that Crispr does is still in the testing phase; it has no commercialized products.

However, it does have some very important projects in the making. Its most advanced treatment right now is called CTX001. Crispr’s goal is to be able to use it to treat blood disorders called beta-thalassemia and sickle cell disease.

Both diseases are cause by mutations in the same gene. Together, they are found in almost 400,000 births per year, require major and frequent amounts of treatments, and have high mortality rates. By the end of this year, Crispr is on track to begin clinical trials to test this treatment on beta-thalassemia.

Crispr also has two very important partnerships with pharmaceutical giants Bayer and Vertex — these companies are worth tens of billions of dollars and have plenty of money to fund companies like Crispr’s operations. In fact, Crispr has received over $5 million last year and is on pace to receive $14 million this year through collaboration revenues from these companies.

While revenue at this point in Crispr’s life cycle is not a big deal, it’s still very important to note that it is receiving this type of funding. In addition to this, it has $272 million of cash in the bank.

The breakthrough in CRISPR technology could also serve as an important method of treatment in precision medicine. For more information on precision medicine, you can watch Paul Mampilly’s introductory video by clicking here.


Ian Dyer
Internal Analyst, Banyan Hill Publishing

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Why These Banks Want to Join the Blockchain Revolution

Like anything new and revolutionary, cryptocurrency has its believers and its skeptics.

Both are making a ruckus.

The mainstream press isn’t helping matters. As far as I can tell, it’s gamified the subject. The side – whether it’s pro or con – with the most quotes published wins.

What a load of rubbish! We all know that multiple opinions expressing the same point of view do not represent “proof,” no matter how passionately they’re expressed.

And it sure does make for a noisy room.

Is the technology real? Does it have legs? Is it disruptive, if not revolutionary?

Here’s the thing. I’m not interested in your opinion.

Don’t tell me. Show me.

It’s pretty simple. Are you blowing the technology off? Or are you actively exploring or developing it?

Sorry, JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon, you can’t say it’s a fraud and also have your bank adopt it.

That’s just utter nonsense.

A more valid exercise is to note what potential users of blockchain technology are doing.

And what better sector to hone in on than our antiquated global financial system where billions of people move trillions of dollars every day.

Remarkably, cost, speed and security are about the same now as they were 50 years ago. The major innovations have been in convenience, thanks to the ATM and advances in online banking.

But ATM use can come with fees. And online banking still has some surprising bugs. I recently found this out firsthand after learning that the online account balance I see is different from the online account balance my bank (PNC) sees. Totally confusing.

Global trade and cross-border payments are also surprisingly clunky. For example, letters of credit involve several banks, hefty fees and long waits. When I ran my global trade and finance business about a decade ago, I avoided the wait by doing something called “import factoring.” It cost me a precious 2% to 3% to get the cash quickly, but it was worth it.

The beauty of blockchain? With it, all but a small fraction of that 2% to 3% would go away. Trade finance, security clearance and settlements, cross-border payments, and insurance are all areas where blockchain technology can make a big difference.

Just another opinion? Well, let’s focus not on what the banks are saying, but what they’re doing.

Here’s a look at their blockchain-related activity so far, courtesy of Outlier Ventures…

Who’s missing? PNC is one (surprise, surprise). Chase is another. That’s about it.

All the other large commercial banks are eyebrow-deep in blockchain initiatives.

And as you can see, they already have “proof of concept.” That means the technology does what it’s supposed to do in controlled settings or on a small scale.

Rigorous live-use testing awaits. That’s going to be key.

All the major banks – except Goldman Sachs, Banco Santander and Morgan Stanley – recently completed an academically tested prototype to automate and digitize money transactions around trade on R3’s Corda ledger.

Again, the actual field testing of Corda’s settlement algorithms is just beginning. We’ll know more soon.

JPMorgan, Wells Fargo and asset management firm Northern Trust are using Hyperledger Fabric for private equity deal record-keeping.

These big banks believe the reduced costs, greater speeds and more user-friendly interfaces are all within reach. Now, that doesn’t mean it will happen… or, if it does happen, that things will go smoothly.

From 2013 to 2016, financial institutions filed 2,700 patents in areas like blockchain technology. It’s hard to imagine that all this activity will yield nothing.

Innovation is coming to the banking industry, and blockchain technology is leading the charge. Let’s zoom in on three companies for a closer look…

  • Mastercard: Daily transactions are mounting, as are the challenges to capture, store and protect all the transactional data that credit card companies collect.

Mastercard is turning to the blockchain for a possible solution. It recently filed a patent for the creation of a blockchain-based “uniform settlement system.” Basically, Mastercard wants to create a ledger to store a verifiable and immutablerecord of data, such as purchase orders, invoices and transaction data.

Among other things, doing so would vastly enhance the security of the data it collects. This is no small thing in light of the massive Equifax breach.

  • Bank of America: It leads all other banks in number of blockchain patents filed so far with at least 39. The patents include internal security tools, cryptocurrency aggregation, risk detection systems and storage, and direct person-to-person payments. Bank of America is working closely with Microsoft Azure to explore blockchain solutions for supply chain finance.

Microsoft itself just announced that its own enterprise blockchain framework will be online by 2018. It’s not clear how soon Bank of America’s patented technology might be ready for the marketplace. What is clear is that it wants to be a leader in blockchain utilization.

  • JPMorgan: Imagine two banks doing business with each other. Each has its own “private” blockchain. Each has large corporate customers. The banks need to protect data about their clients. But they also need to reveal the amount and type of currency, the rate of exchange, and the institution initiating the transfer.

This is where Quorum comes in.

JPMorgan designed Quorum for its institutional clients. Built on top of Ethereum, it features private smart contracts. One of its first uses is as a settlement layer for cases ranging from simple equity trades to complex derivatives.

In its early iterations, Quorum can run transaction settlements on a blockchain with the ability to both protect proprietary data and interact with a public blockchain.

Authorities would be able to audit the internal blockchain for compliance while companies do business on the public one. A nice start.

By the way, JPMorgan is a member of the Enterprise Ethereum Alliance, the largest open-source blockchain alliance in the world. It has more than 150 members, including Microsoft, Mastercard, Intel, Scotiabank, ING, BP, Cisco and the Indian government.

My gosh, it’s early. But, given all this activity (as opposed to just words), I don’t see bitcoin or Ethereum going away. The rewards of building, accessing or investing in the best blockchains will be enormous.

It’s early, but not too early.

Blockchain technology is on the cusp of overhauling the global financial system as we know it. Perhaps the Bank of America said it best…

“[It’s] very important… to reserve our spot [early] even before we know the commercial applications…”

Good investing,

Andy Gordon
Co-Founder, Early Investing

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Source: Early Investing