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A Medical Breakthrough Creating Stock Profits

Companies / Healthcare Sector Oct 29, 2014 - 02:23 PM GMT

By: Money_Morning


Michael A. Robinson writes: When Minghao, a 12-year old Chinese boy, was playing soccer earlier this year, the seemingly healthy player had no idea he was on the cusp of devastating news.

During the game, he headed the ball; it was a simple maneuver regularly seen throughout any match. The next day Minghao (a pseudonym) woke up stiff, sore, and with a severe aching in his neck.

Doctors examined him and, after tests, delivered the type of news that every parent dreads…

Their son had a malignant tumor known as Ewing's sarcoma in the second vertebra of his neck.

Conventional surgery to remove the vertebra was not a promising option. Recovery would be prolonged and the conventional remedy of inserting a titanium tube, held in place by cement and screws, was especially ill-suited for Minghao. As he grew there was a very real chance the bones around the tube would impede and damage it, creating their own dire set of consequences.

What happened next is one of the most exciting breakthroughs I've come across in my career. It's nothing short of revolutionary and, for the companies involved, it's an equally awe-inducing investment opportunity…

A $4 Billion Market Comes Alive

Faced with only daunting options, doctors at Peking University Third Hospital decided to take a cutting-edge approach.

Their decision: Minghao would became the world's first patient to receive an artificial vertebrae made with a 3D printer.

The young man is still recovering, and the full results and measure of the success will only become definitive with time. This we know: the structural design of the replacement vertebrae, and its ability to facilitate anticipated growth, provide him with far better prospects than he might ever have hoped for without the technology.

The operation underscores how 3D printing is already transforming medical care. It gives doctors the ability to make custom implants that perfectly fit the patient's anatomy, especially in cases when donor material is hard or impossible to come by.

It's poised to become big business. The market research firm IDTechEx says the medical and dental market for 3D printers is set to grow from $141 million today to $868 million by 2025.

At that rate, medical 3D printing will account for more than 20% of what IDTechEx projects will be a $4 billion market for 3D products and services.

In fact, the field may already be growing faster than experts can accurately track. That's because doctors, like Minghao's, will often have to follow a patient's progress for more than 18 months before reporting their breakthroughs.

Consider that roughly two years ago doctors used a 3D-planted artificial hip to allow a 15-year-old Swedish girl to walk again after conventional surgery to correct a congenital disease had failed. Today, doctors say the teenager is healthy and can walk without crutches or a cane.

In yet another example, doctors at the Netherlands' University Medical Center at Utrecht helped a woman who suffered from a condition that causes a thickening of the skull that places pressure on the brain. The doctors used a 3D printer to make an implant that replaced the entire top part of the 22-year-old's skull…

Given the diversity of examples, and above are just a few, the uses of 3D printing in science and healthcare appear virtually unlimited.

This presents investors with a profit opportunity and challenge. The diversity of custom designs have slowed the rate at which one company can emerge as a clear "pure play" on a major U.S. exchange.

Two Discounted Opportunities for 3D Options in an Emerging Field

But two of the 3D industry's main players are ramping up their medically focused efforts.

3D Systems Corp. (NYSE:DDD) uses its Personalized Surgery and Medical Devices division to implement 3D printing technology in a number of areas including dental and anatomical models, surgical guides, implants, and prosthetics.

At the same time, DDD is working to bolster its product offerings through strategic acquisitions.

In April, DDD acquired Medical Modeling Inc., a leader in personalized surgical treatments and in creating patient-specific medical devices. DDD followed up that purchase with another one, this time spending $120 million in July to scoop up Simbionix, a global leader in 3D virtual reality surgical simulation.

Meanwhile, 3D Systems' competitor Stratasys, Ltd. (Nasdaq: SSYS) is also active in the medical space. SSYS has a 3D-printed device called the Wilmington Robotic Exoskeleton (WREX) that has shown early promise in facilitating extremity motion. The 3D-printed WREX device is made of hinged metal bars and resistance bands. To date, it has benefited 15 children and the number should only rise.

Despite these huge medical advances, the stocks of DDD and SSYS are under pressure, in part because of sector overvaluation based on perhaps a little too much industry optimism. DDD fell recently after offering reduced guidance for its forthcoming third-quarter earnings. It's now off more than 50% year to date, yet still carries a 109.5 P/E ratio, while SSYS is down more than 10% this year.

There is a third alternative to pick up gains on the inevitable 3D printing rebound while protecting ourselves from its early-stage volatility.

This Top-Rated ETF Promises Outsized Returns, and Diversity

That's where the Robo-Stox Global Robotics & Automation ETF (Nasdaq: ROBO) comes in, with a 3D component, but far more diversified. The fund contains 3D printing player ExOne Co (Nasdaq: XONE) but is not strictly focused on 3D printing.

Consider that Investor's Business Daily ranked ROBO fourth on its list of the "Five Most Intriguing Equity ETFs Launched in 2013" out of a pool of 140.

This novel fund holds a total of 85 stocks that gives investors broad exposure to automation technology that will play an increasingly important role in the twenty-first century.

Included in ROBO is iRobot Corp. (Nasdaq: IRBT), which is paving the way in robotic technology.

Here is just a sampling of additional ROBO holdings:

  • Forum Energy Technologies Inc. (NYSE: FET) is leading the way in America's emerging energy independence.
  • IPG Photonics Corp. (Nasdaq: IPGP) is the leading global provider of high-powered fiber lasers and amplifiers. IPG has a solid global presence with manufacturing facilities in Germany, Russia, Italy, and the United States.
  • Nuance Communications Inc. (Nasdaq: NUAN) brings a communications aspect to ROBO. Nuance specializes in voice recognition and digital imaging software.
  • Accuray Inc. (Nasdaq: ARAY) is an award-winning radiation oncology company that offers treatment solutions for cancer patients.
  • Intuitive Surgical Inc. (Nasdaq: ISRG) is a maker of robotic surgical systems. It was the first to introduce the da Vinci Surgical System, which has made the company a true global leader in the emerging method of robotic, minimally invasive surgery.

Trading at just $25, ROBO is a low-priced way for tech investors to position themselves for the 3D printing rebound.

The future of 3D printing is bright for improving lives… and producing profits.

Source :

Money Morning/The Money Map Report

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