Editas Vs Crispr Therapeutics Stock: It sounds like an idea straight out of science fiction: modifying people’s DNA sequences in order to treat infections and genetic conditions. Yet the technology of “genome editing” exists right here and now, and it could have major implications for how diseases such as cancer are treated in the near future.
Editas Medicine [NASDAQ: EDIT] and CRISPR Therapeutics [NASDAQ: CRSP] are two companies that have received media and investor attention for their work on genome editing. In terms of stock performance, though, which one is the better buy?
Pros and Cons of Investing in Genome Editing Stocks
On the positive side, genome editing has the potential to revolutionize the field of biotechnology, which could obviously be very profitable for the companies and investors involved.
Some medical researchers are hopeful that genome editing will result in cures for devastating hereditary ailments such as cystic fibrosis, muscular dystrophy, and Huntington’s disease.
Beyond its impact on human health, geneticists may also use the technology to breed crops that have higher yields and are more resistant to drought.
Perhaps the biggest risk factor for genome editing stocks is the potential for future governmental regulation, not to mention the need for FDA approval.
In 2018, Chinese researcher He Jiankui sparked a firestorm of debate when he announced the birth of the world’s first gene-edited children. Among other ethical issues, the twin girls may be at higher risk of dying earlier due to adverse effects from one of the genes that was modified for HIV resistance.
Responding to the controversy, the Chinese government drafted new regulations that would hold a person responsible for the negative effects of genome editing in humans or human embryos. Genome editing is a controversial topic—to say the least—and it’s likely that future laws will impact the legality of certain practices, with unknown effects on the businesses involved.
With all that said, which of the two genome editing company stocks seems like the better buy right now: Editas Medicine or CRISPR Therapeutics [NASDAQ: CRSP]?
Is Editas Medicine Stock a Buy?
The past year has been roughly a wash for genome editing stocks like Editas Medicine [NASDAQ: EDIT], which declined by roughly 10 percent year over year. However, the company is hoping to score big in the near future with a new promising treatment.
Editas’ flagship product is EDIT-101, a gene therapy for treating a rare eye disease known as Leber congenital amaurosis type-10 (LCA10). EDIT-101, and other treatments like it, use a technology known as CRISPR, which is formally an acronym for “clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats.” CRISPR is a popular approach to genome editing that uses the Cas9 protein to more easily “cut” DNA strands.
In July, Editas partnered with pharmaceutical company Allergan to begin the phase 1/2 clinical trial of EDIT-101, which will be the world’s first CRISPR genome editing study in which the treatment occurs within the human body (i.e. in vivo). Editas is hopeful that, if successful, EDIT-101 can be used for other genetic diseases that cause progressive vision loss.
Still, not all is smooth sailing for Editas right now.
If the EDIT-101 study is underwhelming, Editas Medicine [NASDAQ: EDIT] may not have other treatments that are as promising waiting in the wings. In addition, this year is a time of transition for the company: Editas CEO Katrine Bosley announced her resignation in January, sending share prices temporarily crashing.
Should You Invest in CRISPR Therapeutics?
Like Editas Medicine [NASDAQ: EDIT], CRISPR Therapeutics [NASDAQ: CRSP] (named after the CRISPR technology, of course) is another genome editing success story: it’s ridden the recent wave of interest all the way to a $2.8 billion market capitalization.
CRISPR Therapeutics currently has not one, but two phase 1/2 clinical trials for its flagship candidate CTX001, which aims to treat both beta thalassemia and sickle cell disease.
Unlike the Editas Medicine [NASDAQ: EDIT] trial, the CTX001 treatment involves ex vivo genome editing: cells are extracted from the patient’s body, edited, and then reinserted.
There are a couple of positive signs for CRISPR Therapeutics. First, it has a history of partnerships with pharmaceutical companies such as Bayer and Vertex Pharmaceuticals. Second, the company has three immunotherapy treatments lined up for trial after the CTX001 study is complete.
Developing these treatments will likely be costly, but the good news is that CRISPR Therapeutics is flush with cash: $438 million as of Q1 2019, and more after an expanded collaboration with Vertex and Exonics Therapeutics.
Editas Medicine Stock Vs CRISPR Therapeutics Stock
As it stands now, it’s difficult to say whether Editas stock or CRISPR Therapeutics stock looks like the better buy. Much will depend on the outcomes of the EDIT-101 and CTX001 trials, which could take years to complete. In addition, few drugs in this early stage of experimentation ultimately go on to win approval.
CRISPR Therapeutics [NASDAQ: CRSP] wins points for its diversified portfolio: even if the CTX001 trial is disappointing, the company has several other projects at various stages of development.
However, due to the complications involved, we don’t recommend investing in either Editas or CRISPR Therapeutics stock unless you’re comfortable with biotechnology concepts and have a healthy appetite for risk.