A lot of the NexGen innovations and mega-trends we follow are really cool, from self-driving cars to augmented reality to washing machines that text you when the laundry is done. They can and do change the way we live, but when it comes to truly changing lives, nothing compares with the excitement and potential of NexGen medicine.
To be honest, progress has been slower than I and a lot of others expected in this area. Back in 2000, when the first draft of the human genome was published, the expectation was that breakthrough medical treatments shouldn’t be too far behind. While there certainly have been some in the last 18 years, there is still much to do with many terrible diseases from Alzheimer’s to cancer to diabetes and so many others.
The area that seems to hold the most potential is gene therapy, and it is one of the hottest trends in medicine, though you still don’t see it much in the headlines. Efforts so far have been focused mostly on cures for certain types of cancer, and that has been where most investors have looked for opportunities. I believe that gene therapy will at least change the way cancer is treated and has the best shot right now of a cure.
Gene therapy basically alters our genes, or our DNA. The strategy is to remove the bad genes and replace them with good (non-mutated) versions, allowing our bodies to fight diseases that in the past did not have treatments and ultimately leading to eventual cures. A few companies have already received approval for gene therapy drugs in the cancer space, and one of the real benefits of this type of therapy is that it is being used to develop treatments for a long list of rare and incurable diseases.
Just yesterday, a deal was announced between biotech giant AbbVie (ABBV) and a smaller gene therapy company, Voyager Therapeutics (VYGR). Voyager will work with AbbVie to develop gene therapy treatments for Alzheimer’s disease. The lack of cures or treatments for Alzheimer’s, which affects an estimated 5.5 million people just in America, has plagued the industry, and gene therapy there could be the light at the end of tunnel for diseases once thought untreatable.
Only the Beginning
I recently came across an article in MIT Technology Review that called 2017 the year of gene therapy breakthroughs. It went on to list several of those breakthroughs, including a teenage boy in France who was cured of sickle-cell disease, the FDA approval of two treatments that use your own immune cells to kill cancer cells, a boy who got new skin created with gene therapy and more.
The breakthroughs will get bigger and more frequent in the coming years, which means that gene therapy is still in its early stages. It also means there is already the potential to make a lot of money investing – if you’re focused on the right stocks.
There is an exchange-traded fund (ETF) to consider called the Virtus LifeSci Biotech Clinical Trials ETF (BBC). It has exposure to several gene therapy stocks, but be aware that it is not a pure play on gene therapy. Still, it is a good way to gain exposure to a basket of stocks that are going after cures for a wide range of diseases, and it has done well. BBC has gained more than 18% so far this year when the S&P 500 is up just about 2%. It is now at its highest level in nearly two-and-a-half years, so if you’re interested, you may want to try to get it on a pullback.
In my NexGen Investor service, we recently added a company called bluebird bio (BLUE). It happens to be the same company that developed the experimental therapy that successfully cured the boy in France of sickle-cell disease. The company is also working with gene therapy on several drugs aimed at cancer, and it has a treatment for a rare chromosomal disease that is inching closer to FDA approval. BLUE has moved quickly for us and is now above where I recommend buying it, but once again, it could be attractive on pullbacks. (For more information on my buy limit, click here to learn more about how you can try NexGen Investor risk-free.)
We’re still in the early innings here, and I have no doubt there will be a lot more moneymaking opportunities in gene therapy stocks as the scientific breakthroughs continue and new drugs gain approval in the future. Best of all, we’re getting close to the day when some of these horrible diseases we face today will become things of the past. That’s as next-gen as it gets.