I’ve been offline for a while, but thought I’d come out of “semi-retirement”, in terms of blogging, to mention that this company is about to begin what I think will be a hugely important march forward in medicine in the coming months and next few years, across this segment (not just ACT, but in many areas of regenerative medicine). I’ve always blogged about science and particularly synthetic biology, but not so much stem cell technology. The field is poised to take-off, in my view, with lots of exciting new trials and news pending from many directions. ACT will start this week, and in coming days, after pending events including a conference call on Monday, an Annual Shareholder’s Meeting and proxy vote on Wednesday and then culminating into some key developments for the company. The end result will be an anticipated uplist to NASDAQ, very shortly, and completion of Phase I/II on their RPE related trials. An expanded Phase II/III trial is anticipated to start very shortly thereafter.
I’ve been invested in ACTC for a few years now though and I have incredible respect for the Chief Scientist, Dr. Robert Lanza and his entire team there. They’ve done incredible work, which most of the world is copying relentlessly (late), though they have very good patents that should protect them for a while yet. Their recent results from their RPE trials, as reported in the Lancet (check out the authors and what institutions are affiliated with these trials / See also WSJ), and their animal testing, which has tended to hold up in other cases in humans, seems very encouraging. Stem cells are more akin, in my view, to cellular transplant, instead of organ transplantation, so where the cellular TYPE is the same as what is being replaced, where the cells give benefit over a long period, without tumors or negative consequences, I suspect, the treatments will be highly repeatable, scalable and extremely powerful as a treatment option. ACT’s cells can be manufactured at an industrial scale, and the retinal diseases they are going after first are large, and have no effective means of alternative treatment. The retina is also immunoprivileged as a site, which means it is insulated from the immune system, so matching tissue is not as critical as say it would be for a kidney, liver or heart. So far, the results are bearing that out quite well, and with unprecedentedly good results for the patients treated so far, though we will know more as the trials continue.
ACT’s proposed cellular applications are scalable, replicable, and extremely valuable, and they can be improved upon with patented technology already in ACT’s labs. There are, for instance, over 200 different diseases of the retina, some of which no doubt these cells may also be used to treat. Also, the company is working on variations on these cells, adding beneficial qualities, but also on precursor cells, they have created additional end application cells. For instance, ACT has developed Retinal Neural Progenitor cells RNP’s and/or Photoreceptor Progenitor Cells, Corneal Cell sheets for transplat, extremely potent Mesenchymal cells and scalable technologies for blood products that could lead to many products, but will initially focus on generation of platelets, likely from Induced Pluripotent Cells (IPS technology). Most of the company’s patents allow for use of any type of pluripotent cell technology, from IPS to NED (No Embryo Destroyed) hESC technology. They have a patent on the NED technology which allows them to create just a few stem cell LINES from which all treatments can originate thereafter. So access to embryos is not a critical issue given existing usable stem cell lines for access to very large markets, even for hESC technologies. However, it is also apparent that, in some instances, ACT’s cells are particularly potent, even in comparison to other hESC derived cells, perhaps because of the way in which their cells have been derived from an earlier stage embryo by the single blastomere biopsy method, which I will get to momentarily.
Here is some information to get you started. Be sure to follow this company, and if you’re so inclined, it’s a highly risky investment, but has incredible potential to create incredible amounts of value, long-term, as well. In the mean time, it remains incredibly volatile and should not be traded, in my opinion. I have consistently bought when its price is low, and negative sentiment is high. Constant due diligence is necessary, as all of the normal high risk factors, for a company at this stage and in this industry, apply here. I recommend that any investor consult the SEC database link below and read all of the company’s disclosures for the range of reasonable risk factors.
Google Finance: ACTC
Wikipedia – Robert Lanza
Dr. Lanza’s Personal Site
Advanced Cell: Scientific Papers
SEC Edgar Database: Advanced Cell Technology, Inc.
Here is a brief discussion of some of ACT’s technologies
One thing stories in the media continuously get incorrect, and repeat out of what I can only describe as either laziness or being on automatic pilot, is the notion that each treatment requires the destruction of an embryo. This just perpetuates incredible ignorance, and I often cannot believe which media and reporters are most guilty of this repeated misreporting. Even with ordinary hESC’s (embryonic stem cells), a LINE of cells (which can be used thereafter indefinitely, for virtually unlimited numbers of doses) is created from to be discarded embryos that couples seeking IVF, no longer need anymore, and have never been inside of a womb and never will be in a womb. Once a “Line” of cells has been created from a single embryo, those cells can be used in many applications, virtually forever, without going back to another embryo. Using traditional methods, the to be discarded embryo is, instead of being thrown away, used to create a line and the embryo will no longer be viable for implant, but the individual cells can be turned into a Line of cells that can become any cell in a human body, and that can be preserved for treatments of unlimited human beings.
However, ACT’s hESC’s are generated using a non-destructuve technology (blastomere technology) in which only one cell is taken, from a very early stage embryo (4-8 cells total). This single cell extraction was an adaptation of a TEST that most embryos are put through, before they are actually implanted, in order to test them. Couples go through a lot to do IVF, so they of course put in embryos that are healthy. ACT’s blastomere method, which right now has only created one line that has been used in humans does not require destruction of an embryo, though ACT did not keep frozen, forever, the embryo from which its current hESC stem cell line was derived. However, ACT can create multiple lines of cells, and preserve or even return the embryo to the family for implantation afterwards, while the line of cells continues, indefinitely, generating unlimited cells for treatments and research on diseases and treatments in humans. Think of it like an embryonic donation of cells, agreed to by the parental creators of the embryos. I believe the company intends to keep embryos it uses “safe” going forward (though they will have to get parental consent, and parents who donate them may not want their 4-8 cell embryos kept indefinitely, and may prefer their destruction, I would expect), if it ever decides to create a new line of cells in the future (which it may or may not do). However, ACT is also working now with IPS cells, and most of their patents allow for them to create their end point cells from any pluripotent source of cells, so they continue to have a flexible platform from which they can continue to innovate as the technology develops.
Many in the media falsely propagate the notion, no doubt unintentionally, that an embryo is destroyed for each treatment, or regularly, to generate cells for treatment. This is flatly untrue. In the case of ACT, all treatments so far have been generated from one single embryo, and they can continue to generate their treatments from that one embryo for unlimited numbers of patients. Most journalists don’t say it, but they fail to clarify the notion of what a stem cell line is, and they leave the concept to people’s imaginations. By flagging “ethics issue”, and stating it ominously, without full clarification or a link at least to better information, they often propagate mythology and false notions rather than science. This means that the field of stem cell science is not as well understood as the broad reporting would suggest.
ACT’s Platelets will be capable of being generated from both IPS (Induced Pluripotent Cells) and it’s NED hESC’s. I believe, however, that the initial plan is to generate them from IPS cells (See, . IPS cells are pluripotent cells generated from adult skin cells, which are then converted into an embryonic state through various technologies.
There appears to be a concerted effort to short this company’s equity which should be noted, and also what appears to me to be a conscious effort to manipulate the price. In my opinion, the more such articles one sees trying to scare investors, given the recent results and science/patents this company has, the more bullish the opportunity in the long-term. It takes a careful effort to knock an obscure stock like this constantly, and there is a dedicated message board and blogger community, that seems to have hedge fund support, engaged in this effort, in my opinion. That means that the stock has been available at exceedingly undervalued prices on an ongoing basis and, in my opinion, ongoing steady accumulation (if it continues to be undervalued) would be a reasonable response to such efforts. I’m not a financial advisor, this is just my opinion as an observer and an investor. I’ve had a long-term and ongoing position in ACTC for a few years now and have continued to accumulate on an ongoing basis. I have received no consideration for posting this article. This is just my personal opinion as a long holder and investor.