Silicon Valley is going to war against disease, cancer, aging, and perhaps even death, with advanced computing, AI and machine learning, genomics, DNA engineering, biotech and nanotech. Tech giants and mega-rich philanthropists are spending billions to permit hacking biology all the way down to DNA, and perhaps we could see breakthroughs in only a few years.
Facebook’s creator Mark Zuckerberg says:
Yes! Together we can cure disease by the end of the century. Are you in?
Zuckerberg and his wife, physician and educator Priscilla Chan, have enlisted a “dream team” of scientific leaders to oversee a US$3-billion effort to boost basic research, Nature News reports. The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative has been launched with the goal of helping cure, prevent and manage all diseases in our children’s lifetime.
Chan and Zuckerberg want to bring the best and brightest scientists together and give them the means – logistic and financial – to develop next-generation tools for life and health research. It seems likely that AI, Machine Learning and Big Data technologies for automatic context recognition and analysis, an emerging strategic focus area for Facebook, will play an important role in the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative. Nature News notes that this private initiative will likely be more agile than public initiatives, and “avoid some of the administrative hurdles that hamper scientists’ productivity.”
“We are committing to invest $3 billion over the next decade in this initiative to help scientists cure diseases,” say Chan and Zuckerberg. “Our first project is creating the Biohub.” Initially, the $600 million Biohub, associated with Stanford University, UCSF, and Berkeley, will use technologies such as single-cell genetic sequencing and gene editing to study cells and develop ways to detect, treat and prevent disease.
Solving Cancer in Ten Years?
Microsoft wants to “solve the problem of cancer” within a decade by hacking the molecular code of cancer cells, The Telegraph reports. According to Chris Bishop, Laboratory Director at Microsoft Research Cambridge, cancer is essentially a computational problem, well suited to Microsoft’s resources and expertise. “Biology and computing are disciplines which seem like chalk and cheese but which have very deep connections on the most fundamental level,” he said.
Microsoft researchers in the first “wet lab” of the company’s Biological Computation Group are developing molecular computers built from DNA, able to find and fix individual cancer cells.
“It’s long term, but… I think it will be technically possible in five to 10 years time to put in a smart molecular system that can detect disease,” says Biological Computation Group leader Andrew Philips.
“Imagine a biological computer that operates inside a living cell, one that can be used to determine if a cell is cancerous and then trigger its death,” reads the caption of a new Microsoft Research video. “In this project, this is done using DNA as a programmable material. Just like a computer, DNA is highly programmable into a whole range of complex behaviors. This could… ultimately allow the making of biological computers created at the molecular scale.”
IBM is not usually considered as a Silicon Valley company – it has been around since much before Silicon Valley. However, Big Blue is one of the tech giants that are deploying advanced computing tech against cancer. Recently, IBM and the New York Genome Center announced a joint project to build a comprehensive cancer data repository with genomic and clinical data. IBM’s Watson AI system will learn to identify promising personalized treatments for cancer patients.
Google Life Sciences recently re-branded as Verily and launched an ambitious research and development program with a special emphasis on advanced computing and nanotech. “We develop automated experimental and computational systems biology platforms and life sciences tools that provide more information about biological function in health and disease than has ever been available,” states the Verily website.
Our programs also include efforts such as bio-molecular nanotechnology for precision diagnostics and therapeutic delivery.
“Can Google Solve Death?” was the title of a 2103 Time Magazine cover story on Google’s life extension company Calico, whose mission is to harness advanced technologies to increase our understanding of the biology that controls lifespan. The best statement of Google’s bold and ambitious vision of future health care, medicine, and life sciences, is due to Bill Maris, President and Managing Partner of Google Ventures, who said:
If you ask me today, is it possible to live to be 500? The answer is yes.
Images from Chan Zuckerberg Initiative and Microsoft Research, video from Microsoft Research.
Biotech Dominates July Penny Stock Picks
July brings new opportunities to trade penny stocks, according to the Investopedia top 10 penny stocks to watch. Biotechnology stocks in particular are poised for a breakout. Biotechnology funds broke out of the long-term basing pattern in June, forcing rotational buying pressure, which bodes well for the low-priced sub-sector, with many penny stocks ready to hit multi-year highs.
At the same time, the tech sector is getting sold with equal force in a profit-taking exercise that could deliver a period of under-performance for the sector’s lower-priced issues.
June’s biotechnology picks drew strong buying interest, led by ImmunoGen, Inc.’s 48% advance to a 52-week high. Small China stocks also posted strength, as China Commercial Credit, Inc. gained close to 35%. China Commercial Credit and June’s three biotech picks return to the July top penny stock list, joined by six new penny stocks.
1. ImmunoGen Inc. (IMGN)
ImmunoGen, a provider of antibody-drug conjugates (ADCs) for the treatment of cancer, jumped from number four in June to the top spot in July.
The stock posted a 12-year high at $20.25 in 2013 and sold off to $5.34 in December 2014. A recovery in 2015 stalled less than a point below the prior peak, creating a decline that continued into an 18-year low at $1.51 in November 2016.
Buyers took over in 2017, generating an uptick that reversed at the 2014 resistance approximately three weeks ago. In June, the stock broke out and made the top 10 list for the first time. It could end up in the $8.00 to $10.00 price zone.
ImmunoGen creates targeted cancer therapeutics using its proprietary ADC technology. The company’s candidate, mirvetuximab soravtansine, is in a Phase 3 trial for an ovarian cancer, and is in Phase 1b/2 testing in combination regimens for earlier-stage disease.
The technology is used in Roche’s Kadcyla, in three other clinical-stage ImmunoGen product candidates, and in programs in development by Amgen, Bayer, Biotest, CytomX, Lilly, Novartis, Sanofi and Takeda.
2. China Commercial Credit, Inc. (CCCR)
China Commercial Credit Inc. (CCCR), which provides business loans and loan guarantee services to small-to-medium enterprises (SMEs), farmers and individuals in China’s Jiangsu Province, jumped from number five in June to second place in July.
The company went public on the U.S. exchanges at $6.50 in August 2013.
The stock experienced a downtrend that bottomed out at 25 cents in February 2016 and began an upward trend that stalled at $3.20 in September. The stock hit a higher low in March 2017 before recovering, testing the 2016 high. A breakout should bring broad buying interest that could support a continued upside that could double the price by year’s end.
The company was founded in 2008 and provides business loans and loan guarantee services to small-to-medium enterprises, farmers and individuals in China’s Jiangsu Province.
3. CymaBay Therapeutics, Inc. (CBAY)
CymaBay Therapeutics Inc. (CBAY), a clinical-stage biopharmaceutical company developing therapies to treat specialty and orphan diseases, returns from the June list, where it ranked number 9. The stock rallied to an all-time high at $13.78 in February 2015, then suffered a steep downtrend that continued into the first quarter of 2016. The stock then dropped to an all-time low at 82 cents before bouncing to $3.04 in April, a yearly high, ahead of a pullback that continued into the November low at $1.15.
The stock broke above the 2016 high in February 2017, reaching a two-year high at $4.81.
Net loss for the 2017 first quarter was $5.4 million, or ($0.20) per diluted share, compared to $6.8 million, or ($0.29) per diluted share in the first quarter of 2016. Net loss in the 2017 first quarter was $1.4 million lower compared to the prior year period, primarily due to the recognition of collaboration revenue in 2017.
The rally has now reached a two-year high, attracting buying interest that could move into double digits.
4. Peiris Pharmaceuticals, Inc. (PIRS)
Pieris Pharmaceuticals Inc., a, clinical-stage biotechnology company committed to providing solutions for oncology, respiratory disease and other therapeutic areas, moved from June’s 7th spot to July’s 4th spot. The stock launched on the OTC market in 2014, trading between $2.00 and $4.25 before falling to $1.26 in January 2016. It ground sideways through November, then tested the first-quarter low ahead of a January 2017 breakaway gap that has drawn steady buying interest. The rally gathered momentum in early May after announcing a partnership with AstraZeneca PLC and is currently testing the 2015 high, the all-time high.
The company’s product includes immuno-oncology multi-specifics tailored for the tumor microenvironment, an inhaled Anticalin protein to treat uncontrolled asthma as well as a half-life-optimized Anticalin protein to treat anemia. Anticalin proteins, proprietary to Pieris, are a class of therapeutics validated in the clinic and partnerships with pharmaceutical companies. Anticalin is a registered trademark of Pieris.
5. 22nd Century Group, Inc. (XXII)
22nd Century Group, Inc. (XXII), a plant biotechnology company that is a provider of tobacco harm reduction and development of proprietary hemp/cannabis strains, broke out above multi-year resistance near $1.50 in 2013, rallying to a record high a few months later at $6.36. The stock then began a persistent decline through August 2015 before finding support at 56 cents, followed by a bounce to $1.75.
The stock has traded within those boundaries for 22-months, bouncing at support three times and reversing at resistance in equal measure. The price returned to that level a fourth time, improving odds for a breakout that could double the price in the year’s second half.
22nd Century Group is a plant biotechnology company focused on genetic engineering and plant breeding that allows the increase or decrease of the level of nicotine in tobacco plants and the level of cannabinoids in cannabis plants. The company’s main goal in tobacco is to reduce the harm caused by smoking. The main goal in cannabis is to develop proprietary hemp/cannabis strains for new medicines and agricultural crops.
The stock last month joined the Russell Microcap Index, when FTSE Russell reconstituted its U.S. and global equity indexes. Membership in the Russell Microcap Index means automatic inclusion in the appropriate growth and value style indexes. FTSE Russell determines membership for its Russell indexes primarily by objective, market-capitalization rankings and style attributes.
6. Corindus Vascular Robotics, Inc. (CVRS)
Corindus Vascular Robotics, Inc. (CVRS), a developer of precision vascular robotics, returned to the national market in 2015 following a trading halt, topping out around $4.50 and starting a decline that continued to reach new lows in January 2017 when it bottomed at around 40 cents. Since that time, the price activity has been constructive, with high volume rally bursts moving the stock into 2016 resistance at $1.75. The bullish behavior has created a cup and handle basing pattern that points to an uptrend into the 2015 high following a breakout.
Revenue for the first quarter of 2017 was $0.8 million compared to $1.1 million for the same period in the prior year. The decrease is due mainly to the deferral of system revenue associated with a future obligation to upgrade multiple customer units from the company’s CorPath 200 System to the CorPath GRX System.
The company installed three new CorPath Systems in the first quarter of 2017, increasing its total installed base to 48 CorPath Systems.
Gross loss was $1.1 million for the 2017 first quarter, compared to a gross profit of $0.03 million for the 2016 first quarter. The cost of revenues for the first 2017 quarter continued to include the effect of under-utilization of production facilities and the cost of CorPath GRX System upgrades that installed pursuant to pre-existing contractual arrangements.
The company continues to expect the full year 2017 revenue to be in the range of $13.
7. RADA Electronic Industries, Ltd. (RADA)
RADA Electronic Industries, Ltd. (RADA), a defense electronics system of advanced electronic systems for airborne and land applications, fell into a multi-decade decline after it joined the Nasdaq in the 1990s. The stock ground out a series of lower highs and lows through January 2016’s all-time 54-cent low.
The stock spent 16 months moving sideways in a narrow basing pattern before turning higher in May 2017 and rallying back to 2016 resistance at $1.78. The bullish activity completed a cup and handle breakout pattern that could point to a fast rally into the August 2015 gap between $3.70 and $2.50.
Revenues totaled $4.7 million in the 2017 first quarter, up 91% compared to revenues of $2.5 million in the first quarter of 2016.
Gross profit totaled $1.7 million in the first 2017 quarter of 2017, a gross margin of 35.7%, compared to gross profit of $6,000 (gross margin of 0.2%) in the 2016 first quarter.
Operating income was $0.4 million in the first 2017 quarter compared to an operating loss of $1 million in the 2016 first quarter.
Net income attributable to RADA’s shareholders in the 2017 first quarter was $0.4 million, $0.02 per share, versus a net loss of $1.8 million, or $0.23 per share, in the 2016 first quarter.
8. ChromaDex, Corp. (CDXC)
ChromaDex, Corp. (CDXC), a provider of proprietary health, wellness and nutritional ingredients, that creates science-based solutions to dietary supplement, food and beverage, skin care, sports nutrition and pharmaceutical products, went public in April 2016 at $4.70. The stock rallied to an all-time high at $6.18 in May, then fell one month later to $2.46 in a single session, eventually posting a lower December low. It tested that support level in April 2017, then turned sharply higher, now testing 2017 resistance at $3.80. A breakout could point to a significant upside, taking the stock back to last year’s high.
For the first quarter of 2017, ChromaDex reported net sales of $4.4 million, a decrease of 39% compared to the same period of 2016, due mainly to decreased sales in its ingredients business segment, as a result of dropping its largest customer for fiscal year 2016. The ingredients segment created net sales of $2.1 million for Q1 2017, a decline of 55%, compared to the same 2016 period.
The net loss attributable to common stock holders for Q1 2017 was $1.9 million or ($0.05) per share versus a net income of $0.3 million or $0.01 per share for Q1 2016.
In May, the company announced the closing of the $16.4 million second tranche of the strategic investment of up to $25 million led by Hong Kong business leader Li Ka-shing.
Li Ka-shing has invested in many innovative companies in the last decade, including Facebook, Spotify, DeepMind, Siri, Impossible Foods and Modern Meadow. The new investment will support future ChromaDex developments in the global marketplace.
The $16.4 million second tranche follows an initial $3.5 million tranche that closed on April 27, 2017.
9. Safe Bulkers, Inc. (SB)
Safe Bulkers, Inc. (SB), a player in the hot and cold dry bulk shipping sector, topped out at $11.48 in March 2014, then entered a downtrend reaching an all-time low at 30 cents in January 2016. A recovery wave in November stalled at $2.38, followed by sideways action that has completed a small-scale cup and handle breakout pattern. A buying spike over $2.60 can be expected to set the upside into action, supporting a rally that could surpass $5.00.
The company declared a cash dividend of $0.50 per share on its 8.00% Series B, Series C and Series D Cumulative Redeemable Perpetual Preferred Shares for the period from April 30, 2017 to July 29, 2017.
This is the 16th consecutive cash dividend declared on the company’s Series B Preferred Shares, the 13th cash dividend declared on its Series C Preferred Shares and the 12th cash dividend declared on its Series D Preferred Shares since their respective commencement of trading on the New York Stock Exchange.
10. Ballard Power Systems, Inc. (BLDP)
Ballard Power Systems, Inc. (BLDP) is a provider of clean energy products that reduce customer costs and risks, and helps customers solve challenges in their fuel cell programs. The stock reached an all-time high at $144.95 in 2000 before falling into a downtrend lasting more than 12 years, sending the stock to an all-time low at 56 cents. A 2013 upward trend continued through 2014, hitting an 8-year high at $8.38, followed by a correction that’s now returned to 2015 resistance at $3.10. A breakout could catch fire, pushing the stock to a test of its 2014 high.
Total revenue was $22.7 million in the quarter, an increase of 39% from growth in both power products and technology solutions.
Gross margin was 42% in the quarter, an improvement of 22 points due to a shift in product mix toward higher margin technology solutions and heavy duty motive for the China market, including the establishment of a production line in Yunfu, China for the manufacture and assembly of FCvelocity-9SSL fuel cell stacks.
Cash operating costs were $10 million in the quarter, a 6% increase due to higher research and product development expenditures as well as a stronger Canadian dollar relative to the U.S. dollar, since a significant amount of cost is denominated in Canadian dollars.
Low-priced biotech stocks have risen following a long slumber, with steady buying interest likely to continue. This group should offer a variety of profitable penny stock plays during the quiet summer trading season, while low-priced stocks in other sectors move into narrow trading ranges.
Featured image from Shutterstock.
Child With Rare Disorder Receives ‘Bionic’ Hand Made By 3D-Printer
A prosthetic hand made with 3D-printing technology has provided a functional right hand for a 6-year-old boy born with a rare disorder, according to Reuters. The boy, Lucas Abraham, showed his new “bionic” hand made for him by bioengineering students at the University of Louisville in Louisville, Ky.
The child noted that it’s the best Christmas gift he’s ever received during a news conference at the university. Within minutes of receiving the hand, Abraham could grasp a ball. A video posted on Twitter shows Lucas getting some practice playing catch with a ball using his new hand. The boy will also be able to crash cymbals together in his music class.
Child Had Asked For A ‘Robo-Hand’
Abraham was born with Symbrachydactyly, a condition where a person does not have a fully-functioning hand or foot. The child was born without fingers on his right hand.
He had asked for a “robo-hand” for years, a prosthetic device that would allow him to hold a piece of paper, grab a baseball and help him zip his jacket, according to the Courier Journal in Louisville.
Following months of work by the students, this week Abraham went to his school, Bowen Elementary School, wearing his “bionic” hand. The device uses tendon-like cords that allow the child to grip when bending his wrist.
The hand was the first made at the university, according to bioengineering professor Gina Bertocci, who noted that more such hands could be made. The university described the hand as “bionic.”
The 3D technology reduces the manufacturing cost. The plastics used, similar to Lego blocks plastics, enable the devices to be made in different colors, Bertocci noted.
3D Printing Creates New Opportunities
3D printing made it possible to make the hands for less than $50 in materials versus thousands that would be required to make a traditional prosthetic hand, according to Bertocci.
The students created a digital version of the hand and used a 3D printer the size of a small refrigerator to ensure the hand was the right fit. It took more than 30 hours to print each hand.
Kids like the hand because it makes them look like a Transformer, Bertocci added.
e-NABLE, a global volunteer organization that prints and designs prosthetics, provided assistance to the students.
Three hands made of leather, plastic and wire were created to fit Abraham, who will keep two of them while the university will use the third hand for accreditation purposes.
The hands were given to the Abraham family for free.
Julie Abraham, the child’s grandmother, said he has displayed more self-confidence after receiving the hand. She had contacted the university in August to see if they could help him.
Circuit Board Health Monitoring Tech Tattoos Are Already Here
Ben Lamm, CEO of Chaotic Moon, is understandably excited while talking about his company’s innovation. Dubbed ‘Tech Tats’, the tattoo kit, now in the prototype stage, will collect and transmit data similar to the Jawbone or Apple Watch. The tattoo, which washes off, will send data to medical staff and can also have military applications.
Eco-Friendly, Non-Invasive Platform
Lamm described the tattoo as an eco-friendly, non-invasive platform use that turns a person into a “human circuit board.”
It can monitor body temperature to detect stress-based sweat, hydration level and heart rate. Information is transmitted via location-based, low-frequency mesh networks or Bluetooth similar to networks used for messenger apps such as Firechat or Jott.
The military could use the tattoos for detecting pathogens on a soldier’s body, poisons in the air or identifying a soldier’s location if they are stressed or injured. The tattoo can be on the skin beneath a soldier’s flack jacket.
More Secure Information
The tattoos can also attach financial information to the skin, making the information more secure than in a physical wallet. Hence, they have financial applications.
They can also be used for location tracking during concerts or monitoring the location of children at amusement parks.
Lamm said existing data collection components on the human body are oftentimes bulky and therefore limiting. Lamm’s company is changing this with conducive ink. He said the future of wearables is “bio-wearables.”
Chaotic Moon has already developed bitcoin-earning fitness trackers and fire-breathing drones.
Lamm said the tattoo project is one of the most exciting the studio has done.
Temporary Biometric Option Has Advantages
Biometric tattoos are not new. Cyberpunks, also known as grinders, manipulate their bodies with surgically-implanted RFID chips, magnets and other components used for biohacking.
A temporary data collection option, according to Lamm, has advantages over more permanent options. The tattoo kits would be less expensive, less invasive than surgical implants and less bothersome than current wearables since people would be able to put them on and not need to remember to charge a device.
Tracking humans with tracker ink poses privacy issues. To these concerns, Lamm said Chaotic Moon is only creating the product and will leave privacy and regulatory issues up to those who use the technology.
The U.S. government has announced plans to create nanochips for monitoring soldiers’ health on the battlefield, according to Business Insider.
Tim Cannon, who heads Grindhouse Wetware, said there are attempts to develop more permanent biometric tattoos for ongoing monitoring. He said the ink has not been considered safe enough at present. Grindhouse Wetware implants open-source RFID chips in humans to perform tasks like starting a car or opening a door.
All images and video courtesy of Tech
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