Natural-born Killers...the Good Kind

Biotechnology does not care about the European debt crisis…or how quickly the US housing market recovers…or whether Hosni Mubarak ever steps down. Biotechnology is all about innovative medical treatments…no matter the state of the US economy or the vicissitudes of geopolitics.

In short, biotechnological innovation is certain to progress through good times and bad; through booms and busts.

Every day, breakthroughs are being made in understanding and re-engineering biological processes. For example, two of the companies I have recommended to the subscribers of Technology Profits Confidential are pioneering the use of monoclonal antibodies as targeting mechanisms for chemotherapy agents, also known as antibody-drug conjugates (ADC).

Antibodies are highly specific by nature. Without them, our own bodies would lack the means to defend against infectious organisms and cancers. Once the immune system recognizes a pathogen, it begins to produce the antibodies needed to flag it for attack by white blood cells.

Decades of research have given us the knowledge of how these natural-born killers work. Now we have the technology to build them to order.

There are, of course, blockbuster antibody-based cancer therapies already on the market, like Herceptin and Rituxan. However, these are “naked” antibodies. They do help kill cancer cells, but they must be used in conjunction with chemotherapy. They represent the “Phase I” of antibody therapeutic technology. They hit cancers hard enough to be useful therapies, but can’t deliver a knockout punch on their own.

Although the two companies I recommended take this concept one step further. They engineer antibodies that are customized to specific cancers. By adding a proprietary chemical bond to the antibody, a chemo-toxin can be attached.

The antibody gains entry once it attaches to the cancer cell. There, the cell’s own biological machinery breaks the bond linking the toxin and the antibody, setting the chemo molecule free to disrupt the cell and kill it.

These antibodies aren’t going into battle naked; they are armed and dangerous.

Both of the companies I recommended have many ADC candidates moving down the road toward FDA possible approval. In fact, one of the two companies may end up having the very first ADC on the market.

Although the initial indication for this compound would be to combat relapsed, resistant Hodgkin’s lymphoma and anaplastic large cell lymphoma (ALCL), other cancers have been found to express the same molecular target as Hodgkin’s and ALCL. Therefore, other potential targets for this treatment could include cutaneous T-cell lymphoma, peripheral T-cell lymphoma and B-cell lymphoma.

Another company I am following has also developed a very promising ADC compound to treat small cell lung cancer (SCLC), Merkel cell carcinoma, ovarian cancer, carcinoid and other neuroendocrine tumors.

In addition, this company is advancing armed antibodies in partnership with other pharmaceuticals for lymphoma, solid tumors, multiple myeloma and liquid tumors. Admittedly, these compounds are still a few years away from a final approval application.

But the technology is very solid…and very exciting. Biotech, broadly speaking, offers some of the very best investment opportunities available today.

Ad lucrum per scientia (toward wealth through science),

Ray Blanco
for The Daily Reckoning