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June 14, 2018

MRP Adds Long CRISPR as a Theme

A new dawn in medicine is on the horizon due to CRISPR, the molecular gene-editing technology that allows scientists and doctors to snip out undesired bits of genetic material and, sometimes, replace it with preferred DNA. Using CRISPR, researchers have been able to cure mice of deadly genetic conditions like hemophilia B, Lou Gehrig’s disease, and Huntington’s disease. Human trials are still pending in the US and Europe, however trials are reportedly underway in China.

As noted in previous DIBs reports, there are plenty of kinks to work out with this technology, so it will be a while before a viable commercial product comes to market. One serious hurdle emerged this week following the revelation that genes edited with CRISPR-Cas9 could cause Cancer. The stock price of companies that develop CRISPR-based therapies plunged as a result. MRP believes this latest finding is just a stumbling block which the industry will eventually find a way to work around, just as it has in the past.

In the meantime, new tools are making the CRISPR technique faster and easier to use, while new on-demand services are removing barriers to entry so that the scientific community can test their hypotheses around new treatments for diseases or new expressions of genetic traits more expediently. Indeed, this form of biological engineering has the potential to become the 21st century cure-all for genetic diseases; and, not just for humans. The technology has broad applications, from health to material science to energy to agriculture.

Given all this, MRP is adding Long CRISPR as a new theme, and using the recent correction as an opportune entry point.

The ARK Genomics Revolution Multi-Sector ETF (ARKG) provides exposure to the theme. Because ARKG also includes companies outside the industry (e.g. AAPL, NVDA, ATHN, GILD), we will track the theme via the "MRP CRISPR Basket," which is essentially a proprietary index comprising the following 11 stocks in the gene therapy space.

CRISPR Therapeutics AG (CRSP); Editas Medicine, Inc. (EDIT); Intellia Therapeutics, Inc. (NTLA); Sangamo Therapeutics, Inc. (SGMO); BeiGene, Ltd. (BGNE); Vertex Pharmaceuticals Incorporated (VRTX); Cellectis S.A. (ALCLS.PA); Spark Therapeutics, Inc. (ONCE); Biogen Inc. (BIIB); Audentes Therapeutics, Inc. (BOLD); REGENXBIO Inc. (RGNX).

As shown in the chart below, those stocks have had a spectacular run over the past 12 months. However, this is a long game, and the industry is young still. We see further gains ahead as CRISPR matures and achieves new breakthroughs.

CRISPR/Gene Therapy Basket vs ARK Genomics Revolution vs S&P 500