Corporate Vampires Sucking Us Dry

Blood — we all have it and we all need it.

Your veins are filled with the stuff. A valuable resource that is pumping around your body right now.

Few people ever think about it, but blood really is a vital resource. Something that every hospital relies upon to save lives right around the world.

Our government spends roughly $1 billion every year just to ensure we get as much of the stuff as possible. And keep in mind, that’s without paying people for it.

Donation is still the best and most used method of supplying blood. Today, roughly one in 30 Aussies are active donors. A rate that is good, but could always be better.

Simply put, there is always a need for more blood.

Take gunshot victims in the US for example. A recent study in America found that people who had been shot need 10 times the amount of your average trauma patient.

The average cost of a transfusion to save these people was roughly US$11,327. Close to double that of the US$5,716 cost for other trauma victims.

The really shocking part is just how high that figure can get. In one dire situation, the cost of the transfusion cost upwards of US$126,000. Just for the blood to keep one person alive.

It doesn’t help that the US also has a blood shortage right now. In fact, it’s so bad that some cities have had to cancel planned elective surgeries. There just simply isn’t enough blood to go around.

The problem is demand. A lot of people are apparently in need of a lot of blood.

In fact, demand for blood is coming from more than just hospitals. It seems the red stuff is fast becoming a hot ‘wellness’ commodity.

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Bigger than Dracula

Ambrosia Medical is a small start-up that was founded by Stanford graduate Jesse Karmazin. A company that is looking to sell blood to people.

Here’s the kicker though. It’s not just any blood, it’s blood from young, active and healthy people. Premium blood from bodies in the prime of their lives.

And Ambrosia is betting that demand for this blood will warrant a premium. Their plan is to charge money to put this better blood inside of you.

The question is, does it really work? Maybe…

As of right now, we can only infer that putting the blood of the youth inside of you might work. The only lab work that has been done was on mice. But, the results are extremely promising,

Exposure of an aged animal to young blood can counteract and reverse pre-existing effects of brain ageing at the molecular, structural, functional and cognitive level…

In other words, the older mice actually stopped, and in some cases reversed, the process of ageing. The kind of discovery that could help us find a way to help people live longer healthier lives. 

However, as with most studies, just because it works in mice doesn’t mean it will work in humans.

The challenge now for Ambrosia is to prove that young blood is good for you and me as well. Something the company is actively working on.

Last year the company began the first US clinical trial into young blood. And while the results haven’t been made public yet, Karmazin is apparently upbeat about their prospects. He told Business Insider things were looking ‘really positive’.

We’ll take that claim with a slight grain of salt however.

Still, it hasn’t stopped Ambrosia from moving ahead with their plans. They hope to have the first clinic up and running by the end of year. With New York being the first city to get a taste of young blood.

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Commodification Complications

As it stands, Ambrosia has already ‘treated’ 150 people with the experimental transfusion. 81 of which were a part of the ongoing clinical trial.

Participation didn’t come cheap either. People had to pay US$8,000 to try the procedure. A hefty price tag for just 1.5 litres of plasma and two days of treatment.

Whether the cost for the final treatment will be more or less though isn’t clear yet. Apparently Ambrosia is still figuring out what the ideal price point will be.

To be honest I’m a little worried about all of this. Obviously everything will likely rest on the upcoming result, but still, there is clearly demand for the treatment already.

What concerns me is how it will affect the market for blood. If this trend really takes off, and companies begin to pay people for their blood we could see donations dry up.

The US is already struggling with supply as is, this could exacerbate the problem even further. Hospitals may seriously start to run out of blood for good. Or at the very least the cost to obtain may go up.

Blood has been a market that has never really had to deal with price before. At least not for the actual collection of it. Now that may change. Soon the blood in your veins may have a very real and very lucrative price.

There are still too many unknowns at this point obviously. But, it’s still worth thinking long and hard about.

Do we really want to put a higher price on saving lives?


Ryan Clarkson-Ledward,
Editor, Tech Insider

Editor’s Note: The above article was originally published in Tech Insider, our technology investing-focused e-letter. You can subscribe free by clicking here.

Ryan Clarkson-Ledward is a junior analyst for Markets & Money. Ryan has degrees in both communication and international business. His priority is bringing you the latest price updates on stocks through ASX updates, as well as supporting Sam Volkering with background research. As part of the team at Markets & Money his aim is to provide unbiased and relevant news for readers. Ryan’s work with Sam is designed to provide research that complements Sam’s analysis for small-cap and technology stocks. Together, their objective is to break through all the jargon and give you the hard facts to inform your investment decision-making. Ryan writes for:

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