Does CRISPR Cure Cancer or Cause It?

In 1987, Yoshizumi Ishino was studying a cluster of DNA.

He was a researcher at Osaka University, looking at a group of cas genes, which were followed by a repeating sequence.


Money Morning 11-06-18

Source: Wikipedia
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At one point, Yoshi and his team were able to clone this sequence of DNA.

They didn’t know it at the time. But Yoshi and his team had discovered one of the greatest breakthroughs in medical history.

They had stumbled upon CRISPR.

It wasn’t until 2005, however, that researchers predicted that CRISPR could play a major role in ridding the world of disease.

You see, CRISPR is now thought of as an adaptive immune system. Meaning it can intercept and destroy attacking bacteria.

It can also correct existing errors already living within our DNA. It’s why people call CRISPR gene editing technology.

Right now, researchers are using CRISPR on mice embryos and cells grown in the lab. It will likely stay that way for some time. But the hope is it could someday cure all human illnesses.

But due to recent findings, that day might be far further into the future than we originally thought.


CRISPR not the only therapy

This is what Futurism wrote on Sunday:

You know already about the promise for CRISPR-Cas9 — it might revolutionize fields from medicine to agriculture.

It might also eventually cause tumours.

That’s the takeaway from two new studies, published Monday in Nature Medicine. Both studies, one by Novartis and the other by the Karolinska Institute, focus on the gene p53, known to play a major role in tumour prevention by killing cells with damaged DNA. According to past research, most human tumours simply can’t form if p53 is working properly — some researchers refer to it as the “guardian of the genome.”

Unfortunately, p53 is also something of a natural defense against the kinds of changes to the genome made by CRISPR-Cas9. When researchers use CRISPR-Cas9 to snip and replace some DNA, p53 jumps into action, causing the edited cells to self-destruct. This renders the CRISPR edit essentially moot, which could explain why CRISPR isn’t terribly efficient.



By picking cells that have successfully repaired the damaged gene we intended to fix, we might inadvertently also pick cells without functional p53,’ one of the authors of the Karolinska study said.

If transplanted into a patient, as in gene therapy for inherited diseases, such cells could give rise to cancer, raising concerns for the safety of CRISPR-based gene therapies.

As you’d imagine, investors sold stocks working on CRISPR technology. This is from the Australian Financial Review:

(On the Monday) Crispr Therapeutics AG fell 13 per cent at the close, while Editas Medicine dropped 7.8 per cent and Intellia Therapeutics fell 9.8 per cent.

But of course it’s not over yet.

CRISPR studies will continue. But in the meantime, other disease curing methods are quickly catching up.

One such method is CAR-T.

CAR-T is a part of the adoptive cell transfer (ACT) family. It involved taking immune cells (T-cells) out of a patient’s body, engineering them to target cancerous cells, then pumping those T-cells back into the patient.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) gave the go-ahead to just two CAR-T treatments last year. In these early stages treatment is very expensive, costing hundreds of thousands.

With time, you’d hope the costs will come down and the effectiveness to improve.

If that happens, you might want to consider looking for biotechs in and around this space. It’s risky business, but the potential returns might amount to a fortune, long-term.


Risky business

Small biotech stocks are like tiny resource companies. They start out with an idea. We’ll cure cancer or we’ll look for ore over there.

Then they raise huge amounts of capital to validate that idea.

It’s a huge risk on the company’s part. They could fail and go out of business. This is also a huge risk to investors.

You’re essentially betting on the idea and management’s ability to get the job done.

But a little risk shouldn’t frighten you off completely. There’s nothing wrong with a little speculation. As long as you know what you’re doing.

You’re betting on something where the odds are against you. And for that you should demand a huge pay off to compensate for the risk.

To reduce risk further, I’d also suggest you invest no more than you’re willing to lose.

That way, if you lose it’s something you can easily come back from. And if you managed to hit on a winner, you’ll be rolling in the money.


Your friend,

Harje Ronngard,

Editor, Money Morning

Harje Ronngard is the lead Editor at Money Morning. He’s also the Editor of Wealth Eruption and co-Editor of the Third Wave Portfolio.

The aim of both Wealth Eruption and the Third Wave Portfolio is to find misunderstood opportunities. These are the type of investments that multiply small amounts of money five- to 10-times in size.

Harje has an academic background in investments and valuation. He’s had experience across a range of asset classes, from futures to equities.

For any investment, Harje believes you only need to ask two questions. What is it worth? And how much does it cost? These two questions alone open up a world of opportunities, which Harje shares with Money Morning readers five days a week.

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