Commentary: Genomics & Pace of Discovery

31 Jul 2021
“The farther backward you can look, the farther forward you are likely to see.” – Winston Churchill

Last year, the COVID-19 pandemic became a global emergency — transforming the lives of millions around the world. Despite the unprecedented calamity, there were some good developments in life sciences such as messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccines that were delivered at a record pace to fight the virus.

However, the advancements in modern medicine did not stop there. Technology-enabled rapid digital transformation across several industries, allowing some economic activity even with government lockdown orders. Beyond software and hardware solutions, the development of the CRISPR/Cas9 genome editing technique—which allows us to quickly cure various forms of diseases—went from discovery to productization in a relatively short time and won the 2020 Nobel Prize in Chemistry.

Looking back

It has been over 150 years since the discovery of DNA in the 1860s. Since then, we have learned a great deal about the DNA structure and the human genome encoded within the 23 pairs of chromosomes. The Human Genome Project published its finished sequence of the human genome in 2004. Less than a decade later, Jennifer Doudna and her colleagues discovered CRISPR/Cas9—a way for us to edit these genes. Three years after this, researchers in China applied the technology in editing human embryos. While the use of CRISPR for editing human embryos has been hotly debated, the rapid advancements in genetic engineering remain indisputable. The pace of progress which had a slow beginning has now transformed explosively in recent times (see below plots of notable milestones).


CRISPR/Cas9 enables us to solve complex problems in a plethora of fields. Recently, it has been applied to treat amyloidosis (a rare inherited disease), sickle cell anemia, blindness from genetic disorders, and in the fight against malaria (gene drive). The groundbreaking procedure has even been touted against cancer, HIV/AIDs, and so much more. We look forward to more developments and remain excited about the countless common diseases that could be solved through in vivo gene editing—infusing gene-drug therapies into a patient's bloodstream, and letting it find the deformed genes and cells to fix or deactivate, without invasive surgeries.

For investors, the recent pace of advancements in this field could present unique opportunities for above-average returns in the near term. Our task remains unchanged: identify these opportunities focusing on those with favorable risk-reward profiles for our clients. Naturally, we anticipate the continued non-linearity in the pace of advancements in this sector through the convergence of the fields of CRISPR and mRNA. In the near future, we might be close to making genetic diseases a thing of the past.

Xantos Labs ("Xantos", "XL") is an SEC-registered investment adviser.

The information contained herein is only as current as of the date indicated and may be superseded by subsequent market events or for other reasons. The views expressed here are those of the authors and not necessarily those of Xantos. Charts and graphs provided herein are for illustrative purposes only. Nothing contained herein constitutes investment, legal, tax, or other advice nor is it to be relied on in making an investment or other decision. There can be no assurance that an investment strategy will be successful. Historic market trends are not reliable indicators of actual future market behavior or future performance of any particular investment which may differ materially and should not be relied upon as such. XL and its affiliates may have positions (long or short) or engage in securities transactions that are not consistent with the information and views expressed in this document.

Diversification does not eliminate the risk of experiencing investment loss. Past performance is not a guarantee of future performance.

The information in this document may contain projections or other forward-looking statements regarding future events, targets, forecasts, or expectations regarding the strategies described herein and is only current as of the date indicated. There is no assurance that such events or targets will be achieved, and they may be significantly different from that shown here. The information in this document, including statements concerning financial market trends, is based on current market conditions, which will fluctuate and may be superseded by subsequent market events or for other reasons.

Hypothetical performance results have many inherent limitations, some of which, but not all, are described herein. The hypothetical performance shown was derived from the retroactive application of a model developed with the benefit of hindsight. Hypothetical performance results are presented for illustrative purposes only.

This material is intended for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal or tax advice, nor is it intended to replace the advice of a qualified attorney or tax advisor. The factual information set forth herein has been obtained or derived from sources believed by the author and XL to be reliable, but it is not necessarily all-inclusive and is not guaranteed as to its accuracy and is not to be regarded as a representation or warranty, express or implied, as to the information’s accuracy or completeness, nor should the attached information serve as the basis of any investment decision.

Xantos may provide links to third-party websites only as a convenience, and the inclusion of such links does not imply any endorsement, approval, investigation, verification or monitoring by us of any content or information contained within or accessible from the linked sites. If you choose to visit the linked sites, you do so at your own risk, and you will be subject to such sites' terms of use and privacy policies, over which has no control. In no event will XL be responsible for any information or content within the linked sites or your use of the linked sites.

Ready to get started?

app_store google_play
xantos-logo Get the app