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Gene-editing treatment Crispr gets caught up in cancer scare, sending stocks plummeting
According to two new studies published in Nature Medicine, the heavily hyped, early-stage, gene-editing technique known as Crispr has run into a paradox: The treatment seems to work best when a cell’s cancer defenses are down.
Not ideal for a medical procedure. The news called the viability of the entire treatment into question -- and sent shares of companies tied to the procedure into a nosedive.
Keepin’ it Crispr-y
Since Crispr came onto the scene 5 years ago, scientists have lauded it as tech that could one day revolutionize fields from medicine to agriculture.
Advocates have speculated that Crispr could be used to cure genetic diseases or even bring extinct species back to life, and painted Crispr’s pioneers as future Nobel Prize shoo-ins.
Here’s how it works: To edit genes with Crispr, scientists craft molecules that can enter the nucleus of a cell, home-in on a particular stretch of DNA and snip away at specific locations.
Unless p53 is on duty…
Two separate teams of researchers found that the gene p53 was in large-part responsible for preventing Crispr from working. So they tried turning p53 off -- and voila! Crispr worked like a dream.
Problem is, p53 isn’t normally a bad guy. Normally, it defends cells against DNA mutations that can cause cancer.
In other words, the research showed that Crispr was more likely to work on cells that were less effective at fighting cancer.
That’s where investors started to freak
Investors read this news as: “Crispr causes cancer,” and things spiraled from there.
According to Market Watch, CRISPR Therapeutics fell 13% after the announcement, along with two companies developing medical treatments based on CRISPR, Intellia Therapeutics, and Editas Medicine.
The 3 firms all released statements denying the notion that this research will have an impact on their programs, with Intellia assuring they’ve “observed no signs of any toxic cells transforming into cancer.”
The scientists who published the research also maintain that “the reactions have been exaggerated,” and Crispr is still a promising technology, albeit further away from hitting the market than expected.
Crispr gets soggy
Buffett stops trying to fix failing Sheetrock company’s foundation
US Sheetrock company USG capped off 3 months of negotiations with a $7B sale to German building-materials company Knauf, giving majority investor Berkshire Hathaway a chance to wriggle out of a rare underperforming investment.
Normally, a passive Berkshire is a happy Berkshire
Warren Buffett’s company is famous for making long-term business investments -- and then being hands off. USG was a rare BH bet that didn’t pan out (yes, it even happens to Buffett).
Buff-Daddy bailed out USG in 2001, ending up with 31% of the biz. But after USG declared bankruptcy again in 2003, the company never got its sheet together.
“12 years from the time we, in effect, bankrolled the company in terms of coming out of bankruptcy … we’ve never received a dividend,” Buffett said.
Even Buffett wouldn’t let this injustice stand, man
Buffett (who has vowed not to participate in hostile takeovers in the past) refused to sit back and let incompetent execs squander his cash -- voting against the board and taking the wheel himself.
“We did not think that the directors were essentially doing their job,” Buffett explained. According to Big-B, it was the first time his company had ever rejected a group of directors.
In the driver’s seat, Buffett renegotiated Knauf’s offer from $40.10/share to $43.50/share and a $0.50 dividend. USG stock then rose as much as 4.2% (not that Buffett cares -- it’s someone else’s fixer-upper now).
You know what they say: When the going gets tough...
Seattle repeals a big business tax after a strong-arm from Amazon
It’s Amazon’s world, Seattle’s just living in it.
Only a month after passing a new head tax on large companies in an effort to fight the growing homelessness crisis in the area, Seattle city leaders have now repealed it.
Together, Amazon and the coalition of business leaders, including Starbucks, collectively raised $285k in just a few weeks to gather the signatures needed to challenge the new tax, and, well...
This is (corporate) America
The tax would’ve hit the 585 businesses that generate more than $20m in revenue with a $275-per-employee tax -- and raise roughly $48m a year for affordable housing and homeless services in a city that has the 3rd highest homelessness rate in the US.
However, a study commissioned by the Chamber of Commerce reportedly found the tax would have cost Seattle over 14k jobs and $3.5B in economic output.
Take note, HQ2ers...
This tax debate comes as 20 cities desperately try to lure Amazon’s HQ2 into their economies -- leading to lavish offers of tax breaks and incentives to get those promised 10k jobs.
But, let Seattle’s quick surrender be a lesson to prospective cities -- be careful what you ask for, because you just might get it.
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