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.

Why?

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.

9 Comments


  1. I was extremely pleased to read this hugely positive announcement that the procedure seems safe so far, and – motions toward efficacy – although I guess we should be careful with that one.

    However, I have read almost 5 articles about this announcement, and in all of them saddened to read negative comments and the usual naysayers regarding the use of hESC and the supposed destruction of human embryos. ACT had specifically said that this destruction WOULD NOT HAPPEN in this trial.
    Unless I’m mistaken thats what it says here:
    http://www.advancedcell.com/patients/act-technology/

    I see there is a link to the BBC news website, which gives me the opportunity to quote them thus:
    But even if this does become possible, such treatments would face stiff opposition by critics who say it is ethically wrong to use human embryonic tissue.

    Plus all the usual stock phrases “one day” – “not a cure” – “many years away”.
    Can we not celebrate it for what it is – a huge step forward. For those of us with a visual impairment, we’d like a bit of good news for a damn change. Anyone disagree with that?


    • Dave, you make some excellent points.

      The embryo destruction issue is tricky. The blastomere technology in theory does not destroy the embryos involved, but in practice there has been some ambiguity as to whether the embryos that ACT used to make its hESC lines actually did end up being destroyed. I believe that some embryos were destroyed, but it’s not clear if the specific ones for which RPE were derived for this study were made later and in that case the embryos were refrozen after removing one cell.

      Perhaps ACT will help us by clarifying this point?

      I see this as a huge milestone and I hope that everyday Americans will get that take home message.


      • I’m sorry, I wasn’t aware of the ambiguity. I was wondering – if you are conversant with the blastomere technology – if perfected and used always this technique could effectively bypass the “moral” issue surrounding hESC usage.
        Surely, the opponents (the supposedly named “pro-life” brigade) would have less to complain about if the embryos were not destroyed or damaged in anyway? Or is that too simple a logic?


  2. Damn! As a stem cell researcher myself I’ve been tracking ACT for some time and had planned to invest on THURSDAY when I get my grad pay! I was hoping to get it while it was still low….These announcements are not helping, grad student investments are pennies.

    Anyways, it is great news and super exciting. As a young scientist it is truly amazing to see things ACTUALLY go from bench to bedside. This is very motivational for me.


  3. Hi Paul,

    Welcome to the World of Stem Cell Investing, “be prepared for motion sickness” in that these stock can become volatile as you know!!! 🙂 \o/

    I founded http://www.investorstemcell.com because I can not at this juncture in my life go back to school for an additional 6 years and spend the next 20years becoming a researcher to “Help” you Guys/Gals out in discovering and unlocking the potential of various Stem Cells. You nailed it in your blog when you said ” 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” A majority of Stem Cell Investors invest in RegMed because it is an “ethical thing to do”, If we make a few bucks doing it, all the better! This is referred to as Philanthropic Investing, not on the degree of a Warren Buffet, but equally as important. Retail Investors assisted Advanced Cell Technology in getting from the bench to the bedside. The Federal Govt has given ACT less than $1m over the past 14years in Grant monies. All of the research dollars have come from Retail Investors pockets to finance the studies and the trials..

    Scientists and Medical Researchers are in my opinion mankind’s only hope as we know it. The current healthcare model will bankrupt the United States by 2027 costing an estimated 14 trillion per year. Unless you and your fellow researchers unlock hESC, Adult, iPSC and Adipose stem cells to treat disease both on the unmet and current treatable levels will will slip into a Dark Age. “NO PRESSURE!!! but hurry up!!!!”
    Thank you for your Blogging it is MOST appreciated.

    JTG
    http://www.investorstemcell.com


    • Thanks, Jason, for the comment.

      I know that this is a sticky area, but I hope that ACT and CIRM can be partners at some future point to accelerate things further.


  4. This is too ironic, I actually just got into the stock market recently and bought my first stocks yesterday. I have yet to invest in any biology related companies but I definitely want to in the future….it only makes sense to invest in the same arena that I want to see thrive. Every little bit helps.


    • Be careful, Agnes! Most of my money is in mutual funds, which can help balance out the risk compared to investing in individual stocks. My investment in ACT is rather small relatively speaking.


      • I only plan to buy about $10 worth of ACTC stock so it won’t break the bank if I lose it. I definitely will be more cautious with larger purchases.

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