Biotech Investing – A Beginner’s Guide to Biotechnology Investments

July 30, 2008

What on earth is biotechnology? Think of it as ways that man controls nature. That could be read negatively, but it doesn’t have to be. Biotechnology comprises all of the ways that humans try to overcome natural limitations be more cost-efficient. Examples of biotechnology are pest-resistant crops, new animal breeding, or pharmaceutical research. Certainly some wings of the biotech industry are controversial – such as cloning – but humans can “manipulate” nature in positive ways as well: producing more nutritionally-complete crops on a larger scale, aiding third-world countries. Really, something so simple as fermenting grapes into wine is a form of biotechnology, so biotech casts a wide net. It’s not all about playing God with nature and trying to turn a profit.

Of course, what’s a burgeoning industry without talk of profits. Biotechnology is also one of the fastest-growing forms of investment. Chances are that a new investor wants to get involved in the new developments in the biotech industry. Sure, investing in wine can reel in some money, but that’s not what is commonly referred to in biotech investment. True biotech investment is based around new technologies, such as gene manipulation. Some of these methods are already being used and some are yet to be discovered: which is why it’s so wide open for investment.

Where is Biotech Today

The new wave of biotechnology is mainly centered around health issues and extending human life, though agricultural advancements are also a large part of biotechnology investing. But whereas the issue of manipulating crops is fairly straightforward and understood, human life extension via gene manipulation has a much larger ceiling. For instance, imagine a product that would reverse aging – this would be hugely profitable in a short amount of time. So while agriculture biotechnology (green biotechnology) is potentially lucrative, medical biotech (red biotechnology) has even more potential, as so many techniques have yet to be discovered. Gene therapy is in its infancy.

Other forms of biotechnology are white biotech, which is biotechnology applied to industrial practices – such as creating and utilizing an enzyme that will break down harmful chemicals. Blue biotechnology refers to ocean and water-based biotech, but this type of biotech is less prevalent. Put that all together and you get the Bioeconomy.

Investing in Biotech

Like all forms of investing, there are riskier forms of biotech investing than others. Generally, biotech investing is higher risk overall than other types of investing – but again, like other investing, the higher the risk also means the higher the payout. Are you interested in stock investing or becoming a major venture capitalist in the biotech industry? There are penny stock options available that can be found through a broker, or you could do this yourself if you’re not a newbie. It depends on the investor, but you’re going to want to choose a biotech company based on location, industry, proof of concept, niche market, good history, and lucrative potential.

The less risky stocks are established companies, like large pharmaceutical companies. This is recommended if you’re also going to be investing in riskier ventures, as big pharma stocks are a more stable investment. Investing in biotech does take some significant research. A biotech research company is likely dealing with some very technical information. You want to make an informed decision about an investment and you need to make sure that a biotech’s company’s goals are achievable. They could rattle off a long list of technical details that sound impressive, but may actually be far-fetched. You need to be able to know what you’re reading, so a partnership with a science-minded investor may be necessary.

To get you started, here’s a list of the top 100 biotech companies, ranked by revenue. Here are the top biotech buzz stocks for 2008. As mentioned, you may want to invest in a start-up because these have the most earning potential per dollar (and also the greatest risk) but this of course means that the company does not have an established history. If this is the case, go with a biotech company run by people who have had proven success in the past. As with other forms of investing, diversification across industries and types of companies is recommended.

Check back tomorrow when I’ll talk about where to start investing in biotech.

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Henry
Henry is a financial writer living in Los Angeles. He's written about most any financial topic under the sun. He also writes some fiction, but rarely about the world of finance. Go figure. He's also been known to write a song or two - but he doesn't write songs about personal finance either. There aren't too many catchy songs about the stock market. Though maybe it's a niche market worth exploring...

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