Welcome to the Wealth Daily Weekend Edition — our insights from the week in investing and links to our most-read Wealth Daily and sister publication articles.
No one ever plans to become a statistic... or the subject of one of the most important human medical trials of all time, for that matter.
Yet that's exactly what fate handed Alabama's T.J. Atchison.
Paralyzed from the chest down in a September car crash, T.J. is the first person to ever receive a carefully designed embryonic stem cell therapy.
Thirteen days after his tragic accident, he agreed to let doctors inject more than 2 million stem cells into his spine with hope that the cells would restore function in his damaged spinal column.
The trial draws upon the work of Dr. Hans Keirstead, Associate Professor at the University of California-Irvine, who has restored hind movement to paralyzed rats in hundreds of earlier tests. These stem cell therapies, Keirstead believes, are the type of medical milestones only seen once every 100 years.
"I have never seen in my career a biological tool as powerful as the stem cell," Keirstead explains.
"It addresses every single human disease."
That's a claim that, if proven true, has the power to create a whole new world... a gigantic leap that may begin with this small step taken by a young man whose life was turned upside down in an instant.
"This is a first for the spinal cord field, a first for the stem cell field," Keirstead said when the FDA lifted the clinical hold on the spinal trial last July.
"Most importantly, it's a victory for the patient community, which really has nowhere to turn. There are no treatments for spinal cord injury."
Carried out by California-based biotech company Geron Corporation (NASDAQ: GERN), these clinical trials are one of the only hopes for the 250,000 plus Americans already living with a spinal cord injury. (That number continues to grow, as a spinal cord injury is sustained by an individual every 41 minutes.)
And I don't have to tell you that the cost of this national tragedy — both emotional and financial — is one that cannot possibly be measured.
For Geron shareholders, that leaves the possibility of a "billion-dollar toe wiggle" if Keirstead's work can be duplicated, and if Geron's GRNOPC1 works in human paraplegics like T.J. Atchison.
At this point, it's too soon for scientists to know whether the injected cells have helped Atchison or not.
The only public face out of 10 approved candidates, T.J. is one of the most watched patients in the world in the first-ever trial using controversial embryonic stem cell therapy.
Like all initial trials, this one has more to do with whether or not the therapy is safe. In T.J.'s case, efficacy would be an added bonus.
In the meantime, Atchison told the Washington Post last week: "I feel really good about everything. I’ve got a positive attitude. I’m trying to live life to the fullest right now."
Needless to say, these therapies (if successful) have the power to change the world — earning early investors life-changing profits.
Bullish on Biotech Stocks
That's why I've been bullish on biotech for some time now.
These and other disruptive discoveries have created a steady stream of biotech buyouts, earning some lucky shareholders triple-digit gains in the blink of an eye.
This is reflected in the recent surge in shares of the SPDR S&P Biotech ETF (NYSE: XBI) that I recommended to Wealth Daily subscribers in late 2009 as a less risky way to play this trend. At the time, shares were trading for just $47.00.
Over the course of the last eight months, this exchange traded fund is up over 25% — and is now threatening to breakout to all-time highs at over $70/share:
That's a trend that will undoubtedly continue as the biotech bull market gathers more steam. And for investors who would rather spread out their risk across the sector, XBI is the perfect way to ride this wave higher.
But whether you decide to invest in a potential moonshot like Geron or make a bet across the sector, one thing is certain...
This is a trend that has plenty of room to run.
As for T.J., he's doing his best to get on with his life, and is making plans to return to nursing school in August. Here's hoping that someday he can walk through those doors...
As for more great investment ideas, check out the week's top-read Wealth Daily and Energy & Capital articles, below.
Your bargain-hunting analyst,
Editor, Wealth Daily
The Greatest Oil Stock: Cash in on the World's Last Major Find
Publisher Brian Hicks discusses an energy resource holding an estimated 1.71 trillion barrels of oil. Learn about the cutting edge company that is going to profit from it.
My #1 Uranium Stock: How Carlos Becker Solved the Energy Crisis
Editor Luke Burgess explains why uranium is the one metal we can't live without... And thanks to spiking global demand, he's on the trail of a company that will make early investors a fortune.
Smart Grid Investing: Is Washington Too Stupid to Tap this $2 Trillion Payday?
Editor Jeff Siegel reviews the latest data on smart grid development.
2011 ASCO Trades: How to Trade 2011's Most Anticipated Event
Editor Ian Cooper takes a look at some of the top presenters at this year's 2011 ASCO conference and offers a few ways to trade the event.
Don't Buy the Hype, Buy Uranium: Veteran Geologist Reveals Top Mining Secret
Analyst Luke Burgess explains how the tragedy in Japan and subsequent fear in the market presents investors with an incredible opportunity to take a position in the uranium market.
10 Tips to Gas Pump Sanity: The 2011 Gasoline Price Spike
Editor Keith Kohl offers readers 10 gas saving tips to ease the pain of rising gasoline prices.
Goldman is Wrong, Go Long Oil: Goldman Will Eventually Be Right... But Not Today
Adam Lass is betting that Goldman is waaay early on oil's eventual demise.
Good as Gold: Silky's View on Inflation
Word on the streets of Baltimore is that gold is all in the game...
East Texas: The Epicenter of Oil Profits: Unconventional Oil Profits
Editor Keith Kohl ruminates how Eastern Texas is still pumping out oil profits while sliding down the backside of the Peak Oil curve...
Trickle Down Enernomics: We'll Need $25 Trillion by 2030
We'll add a billion people by 2030... We'll need 40% more energy... It'll cost $25 trillion... Here's part of how we'll get there.
Nuclear Power is Not Dead... Not by a Long Shot: Riding New Designs to Big Profits
Editor Steve Christ explains why the nuclear revival goes on despite the disaster in Japan, and offers a way to play it with an investment in a the wave of the future.
Is Gold Tapped Out?: How to Squeeze Another 197% Out of the IDEA of Gold
Why fret about gold's reality when the dream can net you another 197%?