October 25, 2020

The Niche

Knoepfler lab stem cell blog

Why I finally bought stock in Advanced Cell Technology

Today after years of following the company Advanced Cell Technology (ACT), I finally bought stock (ACTC) in it.

ACT, Advanced Cell TechnologyWhy?

As a stem cell researcher myself working on human ES cells, iPS cells, and many other types of stem cells, I have been following ACT for years, but have never pulled the trigger to buy their stock….until now.

They are conducting research on using human ES cell-based technology as treatments for blindness. They are also currently the only company with FDA approved clinical trials underway.

At one point in the last few years, I could have bought the stock for a nickel a share, but didn’t. I felt it was too risky at that point. ACT investors are readers of my blog and have been telling me for years to buy the stock, but I am a pretty conservative investor.

What changed to make me, someone who is quite risk averse, buy this high-risk biotech stock?

They published their initial findings from a few patients from their clinical trial in the prestigious journal, Lancet. At least they will publish it later this week, but word broke today about the study.

ACT researchers led by stem cell superstar Robert Lanza found that their human ES-cell based RPE drug has so far proved safe and there are even hints at efficacy in their initial data. To me this is a huge step forward and I applaud ACT for publishing this work. Too often biotechs keep everything a secret.

As a scientist, I have to point out one potential complicating factor from their initial study is that reportedly the evidence of efficacy in the treated eye of one patient were also accompanied by improvements in vision in the uninjected control eye as well. However, only the treated eye in another patient improved, which is encouraging.

You have to keep in mind in these early phase clinical trials that the patients allowed to be enrolled have very severe disease so the potential for improvement could also be constrained by the severity of the disease. The FDA does not want new treatments safety tested in patients with only mild disease because the risk for harm is higher. For example, you could make a person with only moderately impaired vision go blind. However, at least so far with ACT’s studies, the treatment seems safe after 4 months.

So after following ACT for years, I decided to buy their stock because I think this publication in Lancet represents a huge milestone for the company.

I am honest with myself that it is a risky investment and for all I know I could lose it all. Data from longer term studies with more patients will tell a clearer story on which to judge ACT’s potential, but so far so good. Good enough for me to make a small investment in this company.

Investing in ACT is also an ethical thing to do. Trying to help blind people see and people with impaired vision retain their sight seems like a very worth cause to me.

Disclosure. Obviously based on the title of this article, I now ACT stock. I am not a financial advisor and do not recommend investments. All readers of this blog should consult a qualified financial advisor before making investment decisions. This blog post does not constitute financial advice.

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