Peter Parker watches his crush Mary Jane Watson from afar during a school field trip to what turns out to be a very poorly managed genetics laboratory.
A tour guide brings the students’ attention to the lab’s 15 genetically modified “super-spiders,” while Mary Jane notes that there are only 14. The guide carelessly blows off the missing science experiment and ushers the class along.
Peter sees an opening and asks Mary Jane if he can take her photo for the school paper. She obliges, he tells her she’s pretty, he and proceeds to get bitten by a suspiciously fluorescent spider.
The screen pans to a molecule of DNA being restructured, and the next day Peter wakes up with six-pack abs, super strength, and 20/20 vision. Spider-man, as well as one of the cheesiest movie franchises to ever hit the big screen, is officially born.
Aided by less-than-stellar acting from its young cast, Spider-Man (2002) was enough to warrant multiple eye rolls and face palms from critics and audiences alike. Even for a comic book adaptation, it was difficult to suspend disbelief as Tobey Maguire morphed into what should have otherwise been an iconic superhero.
Yet 15 years after its release, Spider-Man has somehow managed to become less laughable, if only by a hair — actually, let’s amend that: by a strand of DNA.
New advancements in genetic engineering, amazingly enough, are bringing scenes like the one described above closer to reality.
When Trope Becomes Truth
Ever since CGI became capable of visualizing it, DNA editing has become a trope in science fiction film and television. Whether it’s scientists at Jurassic Park using frog DNA to bring life back to the dinosaurs or alien “engineers” from Prometheus using their own DNA to create life on Earth, we’ve all seen this cliché before and blown it off as just another sci-fi gimmick.
As the saying goes, though, truth is often stranger than fiction, and in 2018 we’re going to begin seeing just how strange, when clinical trials for a much-anticipated genetic engineering technology finally kick off.
If you haven’t guessed already, I’m talking about CRISPR-Cas9, the revolutionary gene-editing platform taking the scientific community by storm. Effectively, this technology is like the Swiss Army knife of genetic engineering.
With extreme precision, CRISPR-Cas9 allows us to:
Delete undesirable genes
Add desirable genes
Reactivate dead genes
Adjust the activity level of already present genes
In doing so, just short of dishing out superhuman powers, CRISPR-Cas9 promises a host of benefits for a new scientific age. By manipulating the underpinnings of biology, this technology is poised to touch virtually every industry imaginable.
Areas that will be impacted by CRISPR-Cas9 include (just to name a few):
Imagine, for a moment, a world with no genetic disease. No cystic fibrosis, no Tay-Sachs, no muscular dystrophy, no celiac disease, no Huntington’s disease, no hemophilia, no sickle-cell anemia, and no Down syndrome.
Then imagine how much prospective parents would be willing to pay to guarantee their children are born without any of these genetic abnormalities.
Now consider a world with no food shortages or malnourishment. Consider fields of produce immune to insects, blight, and overgrowth, but without the need for harmful pesticides, fungicides, or carcinogenic herbicides like Monsanto’s Roundup.
Imagine potatoes that last for months on end, without the use of preservatives. Imagine wheat with no gluten, oils with no saturated fat, and drought-resistant crops spanning the globe.
Then imagine how much farmers would be willing to pay for the seeds making it all possible.
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Early Investors Are Poised to Reap the Biggest Reward
With commercial applications like these approaching, investors would be wise to start paying attention to CRISPR-Cas9 and the broader genetic-engineering industry sooner than later.
Over the past three years, a number of genetic engineering companies utilizing some form of CRISPR-Cas9 have quietly popped up on public markets. So far, they’ve been overshadowed by hype surrounding other high-profile tech developments like augmented reality, driverless cars, digital currencies, etc., but starting in 2018 you’re going to start hearing about CRISPR-Cas9 much more frequently.
The looming catalyst for that attention right now is the world’s first CRISPR-Cas9 human clinical trial, expected to kick off next year in Europe. Early indications for this trial will be for two blood disorders, sickle cell and beta thalassemia, but over time you can expect treatments to expand to more genetic abnormalities.
As the mainstream begins to catch on, money is all but guaranteed to flood into the select few developmental biotechnology companies working on CRISPR-Cas9 medicines, as well as one small seed company using similar technology to create advanced seeds for a new age of farming.
Personally, my investment strategy is to spread some speculative funds across the entire space as the industry develops. Not every company is guaranteed to succeed, but it’s a good bet gaining exposure across these opportunities while they’re still cheap.
Keep an eye out in the coming weeks, as we’ll be sharing more details on our top gene editing stocks. In the meantime, make a mental note of CRISPR-Cas9 and be sure to remember where you heard this information first.
Until next time,
Jason Stutman is Wealth Daily’s senior technology analyst and editor of investment advisory newsletters Technology and Opportunity and The Cutting Edge. His strategy for building winning portfolios is simple: Buy the disruptor, sell the disrupted.
Covering the broad sector of technology and occasionally dabbling in the political sphere, Jason has written hundreds of articles spanning topics from consumer electronics and development stage biotechnology to political forecasting and social commentary.
Outside the office Jason is a lover of science fiction and the outdoors, and an amateur squash player at best. He writes through the lens of a futurist, free market advocate, and fiscal conservative. Jason currently hails from Baltimore, Maryland, with roots in the great state of New York.
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