We’ve got another pitch from Jason Stutman to look at today, this time using a lot of the ad copywriter’s favorite techniques to get our attention as he pitches subscriptions to Technology & Opportunity.
What do I mean by that? We’ll run through a few examples…
First, the “smart wealthy people are already on board” bit…
“Jeff Bezos, Peter Thiel, and the Rockefellers are betting a colossal nine figures on: The #1 Stock of This Generation”
And the “I’m holding the secret details on this paper” bit:
“Inside this folder are 140 patents that will soon alter the very fabric of the world as we know it.”
Plus the “you’ll never believe what’s inside this ordinary building” spiel, including a photo:
“They’ve been quietly filed over the last three years by a secretive company…
“In this nondescript office park…
“On the outskirts of San Francisco.”Are you getting our free Daily Update
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Who can resist, right?
And we get a little back story, too…
“Outside of the company’s engineers, only a few people have been allowed to witness this technology for themselves.
“In 2017, Jeff Bezos was given a ‘demo’ and immediately dipped into his own pockets to write a check for $116 million.
“In 2018, Peter Thiel, the billionaire PayPal founder, was invited to visit this company’s headquarters…
“And shortly after he walked out, Thiel’s investment fund wrote them another eight-figure, multimillion-dollar check.”
Just to give you some context here, I did some back-of-the-envelope math… and Jeff Bezos investing $116 million is probably about the same level of commitment as me investing about $3,000. I would think about it before spending that much money, just like I’d think about it before buying a new couch or bicycle, but it would certainly not be an earth-shaking bet.
What they’re pitching for new Technology & Opportunity investors is a “special report” called, “The #1 Stock of This Generation: How You Could Ride the End of Aging to Enormous Stock Returns” … so does that ring a little bell?
Yes, it sounds like they’re using an idea that several other newsletters have pitched over the past year… but let’s check the clues to make sure.
More on the insiders:
“Company insiders already know what’s about to unfold.
“Over the last few weeks, they’ve been quietly buying up shares left and right…
“To the tune of $4.8 million.
“And institutional heavyweights like BlackRock, Vanguard, Renaissance Technologies, Goldman Sachs, and Charles Schwab have all been tripping over each other to get in as well.”
He compares this to the dawn of the fast food industry, the beginning of the personal computer revolution, or the launch of the internet… but at least he doesn’t go back in time as some pundits have, and compare this latest technology breakthrough to the discovery of electricity, the expansion of the railroad, or the industrial revolution.
And he spins the “end of aging” tale nicely:
“… what this tiny company is about to do is bigger than McDonald’s, bigger than Microsoft, and bigger than Amazon.
I want you to imagine waking up on January 1, 2100.
“It’s the dawn of the new century.
“And even though you celebrated your 100th birthday many years ago…
“You spring out of bed without a hitch.
“You go to brush your teeth and staring out of the mirror is a face that only looks one-third of your real age.
“You kiss your beautiful wife.
“Then you drive down to the golf course to play a round with your friends.”
Gosh, it’s almost like Stutman knows that the key demographic for investment newsletters is folks in their 50s, 60s and 70s who maybe woke up feeling a little creaky this morning… like yours truly.
He even makes it seem completely real, by showing a photo of a little yellow capsule:
“The ancient Greeks called it ambrosia: The sweet nectar consumed by the gods that gifted them with immortality.
“For medieval Christians, it was the Holy Grail: The cup that Christ drank out of during the Last Supper.
“And Ponce de Leon stomped through the New World’s swampy shores looking for the Fountain of Youth.
“But finally, at last, our search has come to an end — all because of a small pill.
“Just like this.
“But don’t let its appearance fool you, because inside this plain-looking pill is a completely new type of technology that could, according to The Guardian:
“‘… spell the end of aging’ once and for all.”
Sounds like the kind of pill we’d all like to have on our bedside table, right?
“This pill could eradicate every single sign and symptom of aging in your body. Forever.
“Which means once it’s released to the public, virtually every other company in the health care industry will be made obsolete….
“What’s going to happen to that $15 trillion slice of the economy?
“Well, that’s an easy answer: It’s going to flow right to this company.”
Really? All the health care spending will be canceled, and that money instead will just go to this little company that stopped aging? That’s the plan? Ummm, OK. We’ll leave that there for the moment, you can chew on that notion by yourself if you like.
So what has this company done? Here’s how Stutman describes it:
“… this small biotech firm has figured out how to make zombie cells self-destruct…
“And completely erase every sign of aging from your body!
“Inside this patented pill is a special group of compounds called senolytics.
“Seno is derived from the Latin word -senex, meaning old, and -lytic, meaning to destroy.
“So, the literal definition of senolytics is ‘old-destroying.’
“And that’s exactly what these compounds do.
“Once inside your body, senolytic compounds selectively target your old, damaged zombie cells, causing them to self-destruct.”
There are tons of researchers working on senolytics, but that does narrow down the field quite a bit when we’re talking about biotech stocks… and, yes, so does the Peter Thiel investment and the Jeff Bezos connection.
One more bit of clues for you?
“Leading This Anti-Aging Revolution Is One of the Most Successful Biotech Entrepreneurs in History
He was named by the MIT Technology Review as one of the top 100 innovators in the world under 35.
“Before his 40th birthday, he had already revolutionized biotech not once, not twice…
“But four times.”
OK, yes, so that’s Ned David… and Stutman is pitching the same stock we’ve seen touted for “anti aging” so many times, Unity Biotechnology (UBX).
In fact, Stutman’s own colleague at Angel Publishing, Jeff Siegel, has been pitching this as his “Day Zero” stock all year as well, predicting various made-up dates on which the earth will change forever because Unity “ended aging.” It’s a little unusual to see two newsletters from the same publisher touting the same idea, but at least they’re both “entry level” newsletters (Technology & Opportunity is being advertised at $59/yr, Green Chip Stocks $99), so at least they’re not pitching it for a $5,000 newsletter first and then later using the $99 newsletter folks to prop up the share price (call me a cynic, but we’ve seen situations that smelled like that in the past).
The only news this year for Unity has been bad, the failure of their first drug in clinical trials, followed by some massive cuts to their headcount as they refocus on their next drug and try to make their cash balance last. And yes, while they have advanced the study of senolytics… they have not yet proven that their senolytics do anything useful in the human body, and they’re certainly not on the verge of developing a broad senolytic pill that destroys all your senolytic “zombie” cells and makes you young again (the pill is just an unrelated image, it appears, Unity’s only drugs that have been tried in humans so far are injections — one in the knee, that’s the one that failed to show any impact on osteoarthritis, and one in the eye as a hoped-for treatment for diabetic macular edema, which just dosed its first patient two weeks ago).
That doesn’t mean Unity can’t be a hugely successful company one day, for biotechs it sometimes takes just one “hit,” and those can certainly come late in the game… all we know now is that they’re starting out in a hole. And there probably won’t be a lot of critical news in the next few months — they’ve restructured the company to preserve cash, and they see that getting them another 18 months or so before they have to raise more money, so the full focus of the company is getting their second drug, UBX1325 (that’s the eye one) through Phase 1b with some proof of concept and, hopefully, some indication of efficacy. Before that, we’ll be hearing sometime in the next 6-8 months what the safety profile and tolerability of the drug is.
So no rush, as I see it. There’s some immediate appeal in the balance sheet, since this is now just a $220 million company (after the big drop in share price) and they have more than $100 million in cash, but that’s really just a mirage — the cash is there, but they’ll be spending all of that, and some borrowed money from Hercules Technology Growth (HTGC), in their efforts to develop this drug over the next year and a half or so. If the drug shows some great signs of safety and they can claim some “proof of concept” on removing senolytic cells from the eye and perhaps get some indication that they’re reversing some of the eye diseases common with age, then they’ll be able to easily raise a bunch more money for the next phase of work… if the results are not so exciting, or worse, if there’s a safety issue in these early patients, then Unity could have to restructure more thoroughly. They do have a second ophthalmology drug in “IND-enabling” studies (meaning, lab work and animal testing that could lead to a filing to begin human clinical trials), and beyond that they have other R&D projects for neurodegenerative and cognitive disorders, and more basic research that might turn into additional drug programs, but none of that is ready for prime time right now… and none of it is going to get a lot of spending, I imagine, until they have some UBX1325 results.
The end of aging may be coming, and certainly a lot of companies and researchers are working on senolytics, but a lot of people are also very wary of the systemic impact (there’s a nice Discover article here for those of us who aren’t scientists) — there’s been some really exciting research on mice about reversing aging (like the Mayo Clinic research that got a lot of attention this summer, unrelated to Unity), but there’s also some suspicion that we’re not really going to understand the side effects for quite some time… and that clinical trials to understand this better might take decades to play out. And, of course, the headline-generating stories are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to research that’s going on right now — there was also a story this summer about some common antibiotics maybe having the potential to remove senescent cells, and I’m sure if you follow the science you can tell me about dozens of other senolytics being investigated in labs around the world. Maybe Unity will make good progress in targeted drugs for particular parts of the body, or specific ailments where senolytics have a positive impact with limited negative effect, but any evidence of that is still in the future.
I say all of that, by the way, as a very non-expert dude in the world of healthcare and clinical trials. I tend to avoid investing in biotech, mostly because I don’t like betting on a horse race where I can’t even tell the horses from the cows, so it’s easy for me to come in with skepticism… so perhaps those of you who are more medically inclined can share a bit more enthusiasm with us… or some perspective.
So… it’s been two weeks since somebody from Angel Publishing pitched this one — now that there’s another spiel from a different newsletter, with a slightly different take but the same basic “end of aging” tale, are you ready to buy in? Think Unity Biotechnology is going to be the company we look back on as the pioneer in anti-aging, or is it going to be some of the other research on other senolytics that moves us forward? Or maybe will senescent cells turn out to have a more important purpose than we realize today, and we’ll decide we oughta keep them on board, after all? I have no idea, but I do have a touch of arthritis and I’m sure feeling pretty old on this Monday morning, so I do wish them all the best. Even if I’m not investing any money in the company.
Disclosure: Among the companies mentioned above, I own shares of Amazon (and shares of the similarly-named but unrelated Unity Software). I will not trade in any covered stock for at least three days, per Stock Gumshoe’s trading rules.