Shares of Invitae rose over 25% this week, a sharp move higher that came after Ark Invest’s Cathie Wood called the company one of her most underappreciated stocks in a CNBC interview on Monday.
Invitae was the 11th-largest holding in Wood’s flagship fund, the Ark Innovation ETF (ARKK), as of Thursday, giving it a weighting larger than better-known companies such as DocuSign and PayPal.
The closely watched investor and her firm are known for their strategy of investing around “disruptive innovation,” and a strong performance last year has caused billions of new dollars to flow into Ark’s family of funds.
In a CNBC interview Friday, the CEO of Invitae explained the genetic-testing company’s mission and long-term goals, offering insight into why Wood is bullish on its prospects.
“Genetic information is of fundamental importance in improving people’s health-care outcomes and lowering costs, and we are relentlessly pursuing the idea of getting that information into mainstream medical care, everyday use,” Sean George said on “Closing Bell.” He co-founded the San Francisco-based firm in 2010, and it went public in 2015.
Invitae reported full-year revenues of $279.6 million in 2020, up from $216.8 million in the prior year. Its net loss widened $608.9 million last year, compared with $242 million in 2019.
While genetic information can be a powerful tool in combating various maladies, George said high costs have historically limited its availability and, by extension, the impact it can have. However, he said, recent gene-sequencing innovations have laid the groundwork for more accessibility. He likened it to semiconductor improvements helping kickstart the computing and networking industry in the 1970s and early ’80s.
“That has enabled … application providers like us … to change what has fundamentally been in the past a rationed good in health care — genetic information, kind of in a niche, test-by-test, sample-by-sample lab industry set up — to something that looks much more like an information industry,” George said.
George, who has a Ph.D. in molecular genetics, said Invitae hopes to get its tests to the point where patients and doctors can use them proactively in large numbers. That way, even if the cost of each test is cheaper, Invitae will have the scale to generate enough operating cash to thrive as a company, he said.
“The massive importance and central importance of genetic information in health care is about to — I’m certain in the next five to 10 years — is about to come front and center as an ability to get the right therapy earlier to individuals that can benefit, identify people at risk, and put in place monitoring and prevention modalities to certainly delay, if not even prevent, the onset of disease and generally provide a core understanding of risk that runs in families,” he added.
Ark Invest has positions in a range of companies working on medical innovation beyond Invitae. Wood’s firm has an ETF dedicated to it, called the Genomic Revolution ETF (ARKG). As of Thursday, it includes Teladoc, Regeneron Pharmaceuticals and CRISPR Therapeutics. Invitae also is in that fund, currently as its 16th biggest holding.
Shares of Invitae closed Friday’s session down 0.5% at $42.70. Despite the stock’s big gains this week, it remains below its all-time high of $61.59, on Dec. 14. It has rallied almost 260% in the past 12 months.