Juno is Simply on the Brink of Changing the World
Juno TherapeuticsWritten by Ophir Gottlieb, 10-05-2015
Juno Therapeutics is a radical, promising and in the very sense of the word, transformational biotech. If successful, this company would be an end-all-cure-all for cancer tumors. We discuss later that the firm may have as many as ten candidates in clinical trials by early 2016. Yes, it's on the brink.
The firm is a clinical-stage company developing novel cellular immunotherapies based on two distinct and complementary platforms – Chimeric Antigen Receptors (CARs) and T Cell Receptors (TCRs) technologies. The company's stated goal is "to revolutionize medicine by re-engaging the body's immune system to treat cancer" (Source: Juno Therapeutics Website). We also note that Celgene and Juno have announced a ten-year collaboration.
Juno was named to "MIT Technology Review's 50 Smartest Companies" for 2015 and for good reason. Here's how this company works, in English, from The Motley Fool:
"Juno's CAR-T therapeutics require the removal of a cancer patient's immune cells, selection and activation of the cells, and gene transfer to train the cells to attack the patient's tumor. At that point, the cells are grown in an incubator until there are enough to put back into the patient."
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Juno's website goes on to read: "These cellular therapies have the potential to be effective regardless of the type of previous treatments patients have experienced and may avoid the long-term side effects associated with current treatments."
Here's an image from Juno's website that illustrates this remarkable approach:
That's right, the firm creates personalized cells and then reinserts them into the patient so she can attack the cancer herself.
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What to Know
After meeting with Juno's CEO and CFO, FBR analyst Ed White stated "[investors may be] unaware of the advancements that Juno is making in lymphoma," given their focus on leukemia and solid tumors (Source: Benzinga). He further went on to say:
"The company's pipeline is deep with 10 candidates potentially in clinical trials using either CAR or TCR by early 2016."
That's right, potentially 10 treatment candidates. The process itself is highly personal, which means the "manufacturing" process of cells is going to be expensive. The reality of medicine in the United States is that those that have, will receive. Those that do not have, very often times, will not receive.
When democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton sent her tweet heard round the world surrounding costs of biotech medicine, the stock jolted down. Here's more from that same Motley Fool article:
"CAR-T therapeutics aren't going to have the typical high margins that come with most pharmaceutical drugs. If the government puts pricing controls on drugs, it may be difficult for Juno Therapeutics, and the rest of the companies developing CAR-T therapeutics, to profit from the therapies if the drugs are eventually approved by the Food and Drug Administration."
Keep in mind that the prices that specialty drug makers charge patients is very different than the price these drug manufacturers can charge insurance companies. For now, JUNO has a market cap above $4 billion and has only reported revenue once; last quarter it reported ~$12.5 million. The stock is a pure play speculation on an incredible and novel application of medicine to cure cancer rather than treat it, person by person.
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