What: Shares of Intrexon (NYSE: XON), a biotechnology company that focuses on developing gene-based therapies to combat a host of diseases, surged as much as 19% today. But the reason for its rising stock price may not be as obvious as it appears.

So what: The most obvious reason for the surge in Interxon's share price could be its presentation at the J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference, the Super Bowl of all healthcare conferences. Interxon is at the cutting edge of gene-based research, and its RheoSwitch technology, which is designed to turn selected genes on and off, could become the basis for fighting cancer. This is all still early in development, but the conference gave Intrexon a platform to showcase its developing pipeline. Discussion that involved maximizing the potential of checkpoint inhibitors could very well have driven Intrexon's share price higher.

However, what I believe to the more likely reason Intrexon shares are surging is commentary from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention within the past 24 hours. The CDC is debating whether or not to warn pregnant women about traveling to Brazil and other Latin American and Caribbean countries because of the quickly spreading Zika virus, which is a mosquito-borne disease that's been linked with brain damage in newborn babies.

Image source: Intrexon.

It just so happens that Intrexon agreed to acquire Oxitec this past summer, and Oxitec had multiple health programs in the works that were targeting untreated global diseases -- one of which is Zika. My suspicion is we're seeing interest in Intrexon because of fear surrounding the Zika virus continuing to spread.

Now what: Regardless of the reason(s) Intrexon's shares skyrocketed today, it's important investors remain focused on the key long-term drivers for the company. These would be its ability to monetize its drug development platform and demonstrate via clinical trials that its RheoSwitch and other gene-based products work as advertised.

Intrexon is not inexpensive, but considering the scope of its platform and what it could do for cancer research, I also understand why investors are so excited about the company. For now, I'd suggest only adding Intrexon to your radar.

Sean Williams has no material interest in any companies mentioned in this article. You can follow him on CAPS under the screen name TMFUltraLong, track every pick he makes under the screen name TrackUltraLong, and check him out on Twitter, where he goes by the handle @TMFUltraLong.

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