Genome Cure for Ill Twins Paves Breakthrough to Doctor's Office
Comment of the Day

January 30 2012

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Genome Cure for Ill Twins Paves Breakthrough to Doctor's Office

This article by John Lauerman for Bloomberg may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:
The company's machines revealed that the twins had been misdiagnosed and incompletely treated for more than a decade. New medication put an end to an illness that had caused vomiting, muscle weakness and seizures. Their daughter, who had spells of breathing difficulties that turned her skin blue, was healthy again.

“Genome sequencing literally saved her life,” Retta Beery said. Nine years after scientists sequenced the first complete human genome -- the instruction manual for making all the body's cells -- the industry is poised for a series of takeovers and technological breakthroughs that will bring the technology into doctor's offices and patient hospital rooms. Equipment made by Life Technologies and Illumina Inc. is spewing out human genome sequences faster than ever and prices will soon drop to $1,000, below that of many widely used diagnostic procedures, such as colonoscopies.

Roche Holding AG's hostile $5.7 billion bid for Illumina may spark additional deals as pharmaceutical and diagnostic companies race to bring DNA scanning into routine medical use, analysts said.

Eoin Treacy's view The Nasdaq-100 hit a new 11-year high last week following an impressive rally. Some consolidation of at least part of those gains is increasingly likely. However, its relative strength is perhaps more important because it is one of only three indices to have hit new highs since the Q3 correction.

Apple remains a totem in the Index but biotechnology and pharmaceuticals have also been among the better performers and these sectors display greater commonality. M&A activity has also picked up with Roche acquiring Illumina, Amgen acquiring Micromet and Fujifilm acquiring SonoSite.

Biotechnology is an exciting sector. It promises to change not only how we live our lives but to extend our life expectancy though personalised medicine. The sector went through a difficult decade following the TMT bust where venture capital evaporated and only the strongest survived. However these same companies have been highly productive and a number are on the cusp of releasing ground breaking products. Investors are responding in kind and a considerable number of shares broke out of long-term bases last year. (Also see Comment of the Day on October 27th & 28th for a review of pharmaceutical and biotech shares).

Here is a spread sheet of biotechnology shares ranked by market cap.

Biogen completed an 11-year base, when it hit a new high in April 2011, and continues to extend the uptrend which remains reasonably consistent.

Celgene consolidated in the region of the upper side of an almost three-year range from October and has since rallied to test the 2008 peak. Amgen broke out of a three-year range in December. Gilead Sciences broke out of two-year range two weeks ago.

Alexion Pharmaceuticals remains in a consistent, albeit steep uptrend. A sustained move below $60 would be required to question medium-term potential for additional upside.

Life Technologies dropped abruptly in August but has recouped the entire decline. It will need to hold the majority of its January advance, on the next pullback, if the medium-term upside is to continue to be given the benefit of the doubt.

In the mid-cap portion of the sector: ResMed rallied impressively last week, on strong earnings, to challenge the 18-month ranging downtrend, Cubist Pharmaceutical completed a five-year base in April and continues to find support in the region of the MA on reactions. Seattle Genetics found support in the region of the upper side of the previous range from August and is currently rallying towards the October peak. Myriad Genetics has held a progression of higher reaction lows since August 2010 and is currently rallying towards the upper side of its range. Halozyme Therapeutics completed a three-year range in October and is currently testing the 2007 peak. Medicines Company bottomed in 2010 following a lengthy decline and remains on a recovery trajectory. Immunogen pulled back to test the upper side of its seven-year base in July and also remains on a recovery trajectory.

In the less than $1 billion market cap portion of the sector: ArQule has held a progression of higher major reaction lows since 2008 and surged two weeks ago to test the upper side of the long-term base near $8. Staar Surgical broke out of a yearlong range in August and continues to trend consistently, albeit steeply, higher. Curis appears to be in the process of completing an almost decade long base. Nymox Pharmaceuticals continues to consolidate above the $7 area following its breakout last year.

The commonality evident in the biotech sector reflects heightened investor interest both in the prospect of increased M&A activity and the potential for significant innovation to improve earnings potential.

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