The biotech space has been booming in the past decade, with areas like gene editing stealing the show as they increase scope for treating life-threatening diseases. Gene editing or genome engineering is a processin which a DNA is inserted, modified or replaced in the genome of any living organism. In recent years, scientists have been using gene editing technology to help treat diseases with a genomic basis, like cystic fibrosis, diabetes and cancer.
CRISPR or “Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats” is a tool primarily used to edit genes at present. Many scientists believe that this year could be a breakthrough in finding cures for cancer in DNA and investors could get familiar with terms like CRISPR and precision medicine to make the most out of advancements in this space.
Additionally, the coronavirus outbreak has pushed scientists to look for a cure through gene editing, as this novel virus keeps wreaking havoc and claiming millions of lives globally.
Disruptive Biotech Making a Mark in 2020
Cancer has been the second-leading cause of death in the Unites States over the past few years. Per Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) data, nearly 599,108 people lost their lives due to cancer in 2019. Gene editing has now opened up ways in which alterations in the DNA will allow patients to train their body to destroy life-threatening tumors.
Additionally, utilization of order writing technique torewrite infected cells and tissues, and removal of harmful mutations are also expected to boost this space. Several biotech firms are now usingimmuno-oncology treatments in which the immuno-oncology class of drugs teach or direct the immune system to identify cancer and then destroy it. In fact, techniques like correction within the harmful mutations, disruption of infectious agent in the DNA, or the addition of therapeutic transgenes are boosting the gene editing market.
According to Emergen Research report, the global gene editing market is projected to reach $15.79 billion by 2027 from $4.44 billion in 2019, at a CAGR of 17.2%.
One of the recent gene editing tools worth mentioning about is the PAC-MAN or Prophylactic Antiviral CRISPR in human cells tool. Stanford University scientists have developed an antiviral agent against the novel coronavirus that can target and destroy specific genetic strands of the virus inside the human cell itself. The PAC-MAN which is composed of an enzyme and a strand of guide RNA has provided promising results in the laboratory when tested on human lung cells infected with SARS-CoV-2.
2020 Nobel Prize Award Boosts the Space
2020 has been a banner year for the gene editing space so far, with several treatments, techniques and drugs in the pipeline. The gene editing space is now in the limelight after Jennifer Doudna, PhD, and Emmanuelle Charpentier, PhD, pioneers in the development of CRISPR technology as a “genetic scissors,” have been announced as 2020 Nobel Prize winners for Chemistry.
The CRISPR-Cas9 "genetic scissors" technology was discovered in 2012 and has won several scientific awards and recognitions in the past years, lending an additional boost to the gene editing space. The news of the award helped major gene editing stocks like CRISPR Therapeutics AG CRSP rise 11.4% on Oct 7, as Charpentier is one of the co-founders of the company. Other such stocks that include Editas Medicine, Inc. EDIT and Intellia Therapeutics, Inc. NTLA edged up 7.9% and 13.2% higher, respectively, on the same day.
A team of researchers led by Doudna recently developed a unique test that can detect the coronavirus infection in just five minutes. The test uses gene editing technology and a modified mobile phone camera to detect the level of virus infection in a person. The test requires a mobile phone camera and a portable device with low-cost laser illumination and collection optics.Though the test is still in pre-print, it can be easily commercialized and people could receive immediate coronavirus tests even at their home, once it’s successful.
What’s more? Costs in the gene editing space have gone down steeply in the past few years, making the genetic investigation process more affordable. Research shows that 30 years ago, the cost to read the entire DNA in a single human being was nearly $3 billion, which at present stands at around $1,000 and may fall to $100 in the future.
5 Top Choices
The advancements in gene editing and its potential for growth could help biotech stocks grow leaps and bounds in the future. Here, we have shortlisted five stocks that can make the most of this boom.
Emergent BioSolutions Inc. EBS is a life sciences company that focuses on the provision of specialty products to civilian and military population that addresses accidental, deliberate, and naturally-occurring public health threats. The company’s expected earnings growth rate for the current year is more than 100% compared with the Zacks Medical - Biomedical and Genetics industry’s projected earnings growth of 13.8%.
The Zacks Consensus Estimate for this Zacks Rank #1 (Strong Buy) company’s current-year earnings has been revised 64% upward over the past 90 days. You can see the complete list of today’s Zacks #1 Rank stocks here.
Vertex Pharmaceuticals Incorporated VRTX engages in developing and commercializing therapies for treating cystic fibrosis. The company that belongs to the Medical - Biomedical and Genetics industry has an expected earnings growth rate of 82.4% for the current year. The Zacks Consensus Estimate for this Zacks Rank #2 (Buy) company’s current-year earnings has been raised 9.3% over the past 90 days.
Editas Medicine operates as a clinical stage genome editing company. The company that belongs to the Medical - Biomedical and Genetics industry has an expected earnings growth rate of 0.4%for the current year. The Zacks Consensus Estimate for this Zacks Rank #2 company’s current-year earnings has risen13.5% over the past 90 days.
Cellectis S.A. CLLS is a clinical stage biotechnological company that develops immuno-oncology products based on gene-edited T-cells.The company that belongs to Medical - Biomedical and Genetics industry has an expected earnings growth rate of 88.6% in the next quarter. The Zacks Consensus Estimate for this Zacks Rank #2 company’s current-year earnings has moved up 18.1% over the past 60 days.
Thermo Fisher Scientific Inc. TMO provides analytical and other instruments, laboratory equipment, software, consumables, reagents, instrument systems, chemicals, supplies, and services. The company’s expected earnings growth rate for the current year is 28.4% compared with the Zacks Medical - Instruments industry’s projected earnings growth of 5.9%. The Zacks Consensus Estimate for this Zacks Rank #2 company’s current-year earnings has been revised 6% upward over the past 60 days.
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