JPMorgan Genetic-Therapies Fund Finds Success in Covid-19 Era

(Bloomberg) — JPMorgan Asset Management now has more than $400 million in its Thematics – Genetic Therapies fund launched in October, just before the world’s need for such technologies came into focus with the arrival of Covid-19.

The fund uses natural-language processing focused on keywords in company documents along with a revenue screen to find firms that best fit the genetic-therapies theme, according to Sherene Ban, an investment specialist at JPMorgan Asset. The portfolio managers also factor in things like liquidity and quality to make decisions on the fund’s composition, Ban said in an interview Friday.

The fund has a 20% one-month return that puts it in the 94th percentile among its peers, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Of course, the biotech theme has done well generally — the S&P Biotechnology Select Industry Index is up 9.5% this year versus a decline of 10% for the S&P Total Market Index.

“We’re starting to see a lot of client interest because it actually behaved as a defensive fund” through the market turmoil of the past few months, Ban said. She noted that technologies related to genetic therapies — such as genetic sequencing of the virus and vaccine development — have been central to efforts to combat Covid-19, spurring price gains of stocks in the space.

The fund’s top three holdings as of March 31 were Iovance Biotherapeutics Inc., Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc. and uniQure NV. It contains about 100 stocks to provide diversified access to the overall theme, and has about a third of its portfolio in companies with under $2 billion in market capitalization, Ban said.

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