Ten years ago, a 31-year-old woman went to see her doctor because she was suffering from abdominal and pelvic pain.
She was diagnosed with a severe case of a condition known as endometriosis.
This extremely painful condition — which affects as many as 15% of women — occurs when cells from a woman's uterus start growing around the lining of the stomach and other organs. The condition can destroy the liver and even lead to cancer.
In late January 2004 this woman (whose name is withheld for privacy) reported to the Stanford University Hospital for a hysterectomy.
During the roughly four-hour procedure, her surgeon, Dr. Camran Nezhat, barely touched her. Instead, he operated a "robot surgeon" to perform the majority of the delicate work...
The patient was home recovering the very next day.
The "robot surgeon" that successfully completed the operation is called the da Vinci Surgical System.
The company that makes it is Intuitive Surgical (ISRG).
Back in 2004 when this procedure took place, Intuitive Surgical stock traded between $16 and $18 a share. Today it's trading for $544 a share.
Its 52-week high is $594.89.
The stock has risen 2,811% in less than ten years.
Become a Science Fiction Millionaire
In 1999 Intuitive Surgical didn't have a marketable product. It was just an idea.
Less than 15 years later, sales hit $2 billion — and are still growing better than 20% a year...
Intuitive Surgical has beaten earnings expectations for the last 11 quarters in a row.
Intuitive has sold the da Vinci system to more than 1,400 academic and hospital sites; it's now considered standard equipment around the world.
Intuitive Surgical dominates the surgical robot market, which in 2011 was valued at $2.4 billion.
In the next five years, the surgical robot market is expected to generate $8.5 billion in sales. Intuitive Surgical could account for 75% of that — or $6.3 billion in sales.
A measly $1,000 into Intuitive Surgical in January 2004 would be worth $2.8 million right now.
Most investors don't have what it takes to become a "science fiction millionaire." Maybe it's a lack vision to see what's possible, maybe it's discipline...
It's usually much easier to imagine what can go wrong with emerging technology than to imagine what's possible — what can go right.
Even in the case of Intuitive Surgical, where the technology was already being used in the most advanced hospitals in the world like Stanford and Johns Hopkins in 2004, the vast majority of investors simply missed it.
But when you get right down to it, a $1,000 investment that could become a million dollars in ten years doesn't really sound that risky...
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Would You Spend a Thousand to Make a Million?
Right now there's a situation that reminds me of Intuitive Surgical back in 2004...
A small $2.50 company is making its own blood vessels, lung tissue, and tumors for medical research.
Its biggest customers are pharmaceutical giant Pfizer (PFE) and United Therapeutics (UTHR).
In a few years, this visionary company will be making entire organs that could be used for organ transplants.
Frankly, I can't tell you how big of a market custom-made organs for transplants could be...
Billions? Tens of billions? There's no way to know.
But then, nobody knew how big Intuitive Surgical's market could be back in 2004, either — and that didn't stop forward-thinking investors from making millions.
I realize that making human tissue out of cell mixtures sounds like science fiction. But remember, Pfizer and United Therapeutics are already buying tissue from this visionary company. That's a significant seal of approval.
Given the advantages of testing new drugs and therapies with actual living tissue instead of models, I expect this could become a very fast-moving situation.
An 18-year veteran of the newsletter business, Briton Ryle is the editor of The Wealth Advisory income stock newsletter, with a focus on top-quality dividend growth stocks and REITs. Briton also manages the Real Income Trader advisory service, where his readers take regular cash payouts using a low-risk covered call option strategy. He also contributes a weekly column to the Wealth Daily e-letter. To learn more about Briton, click here.