December 17 marked the semi-annual rebalance and reconstitution of the Cancer Immunotherapy ETF’s (Nasdaq: CNCR) underlying index. This happens in two steps. First, a committee of advisors that oversees the index gets together and determines the reconstitution, which means they decide if any new companies should be added. Second, once the index’s holdings have been finalized, a rebalance occurs and each company is given equal weight. CNCR ETF then places trades to replicate those changes as closely as possible. View all holdings of the Cancer Immunotherapy ETF.
For the December meeting, the committee has added two new immunotherapy companies. They are BioNTech (Nasdaq: BNTX) and NextCure (Nasdaq: NXTC).
These companies replace MacroGenics (Nasdaq: MGNX) and Seattle Genetics (Nasdaq: SGEN).
Brad Loncar, CEO of Loncar Investments and Chairman of the Index Committee, had the following comments, “With only two components changing, I am encouraged by the overall stability in composition of the index during this rebalance. We are happy to add BioNTech and NextCure and wish them best of luck in their clinical trials.”
To help the fund’s investors and followers learn more about these additions, we have provided a brief background on their work and what sets them apart. The CNCR ETF is thrilled to welcome both companies to the fund.
BioNTech (Nasdaq: BNTX)
BioNTech was founded over 10 years ago with the goal of developing cancer medicines that are personalized to each individual patient. Today BioNTech has over 20 product candidates in development, eight that have reached the clinical stage in nine ongoing clinical trials, and the company is working with seven pharmaceutical partners. BioNTech is best known for its personalized messenger RNA (mRNA) platform. The aim is to deliver mRNA into cells and then have those cells create tools like tumor-specific antigens or cytokines that will help the body mount an immune response against cancer. BioNTech and its partners currently have trials using mRNA against cancers such as melanoma, head and neck cancer, and triple negative breast cancer.
While BioNTech is well known for its mRNA-based approach, some people might not know that mRNA is only one of four areas the company is working on. There is also an antibody platform that currently has both monoclonal antibodies and bispecific antibodies in the clinic, a preclinical cell therapy platform that is researching chimeric antigen receptor T-cell (CAR-T) and T-cell receptor (TCR) technologies, and a small molecule TLR7 agonist that is preclinical as well. As you can see, BioNTech is a company with a robust and diverse pipeline. We look forward following along as more BioNTech’s discoveries enter clinical trials.
NextCure (Nasdaq: NXTC)
NextCure is an immunotherapy company that has quite a famous scientific founder, Lieping Chen, M.D., Ph.D.. Dr. Chen is currently United Technologies Corporation Professor in Cancer Research and Professor of Immunobiology, of Dermatology and of Medicine (Medical Oncology); Co-Leader, Cancer Immunology, at Yale Cancer Center. He is credited with being the first to discover “co-stimulation of tumor immunity” in 1992 and his work eventually led to the development of the famous PD-(L)1 inhibitor cancer immunotherapy medicines that are the foundation of care for many cancers today.
NextCure’s core science is based on a platform it calls Functional, Integrated, NextCure Discovery in Immuno-Oncology, or FIND-IO for short. The company is trying to use this to find novel targets that might help patients respond to immunotherapies in the future who are not responding to them today. Its first medicine in development, called NC318, targets an immunomodulatory protein called Siglec-15. This is a novel, first in class medicine, which means that NextCure is the first company to develop something against the Siglec-15 target. We agree that patients need new options and we are pleased to support companies that are researching their own novel discoveries in this way.
NextCure recently made headlines after it presented an update of its early-stage trial of NC318 at an immunotherapy conference in November called SITC. 49 patients had been treated with various doses. In addition to the drug being well tolerated, some patients appeared to have responses. For example, in patients with non-small cell lung cancer, there was one complete response (this means the patient showed an absence of observable disease after treatment), one partial response, and four patients with stable disease. These are patients who were sadly no longer responding to other drugs like PD-(L)1 inhibitors so it is possible that NC318 might have produced the responses. We look forward to seeing updates from NC318 over the coming year.
Thank you for your interest in the field of immunotherapy and the Cancer Immunotherapy ETF. Be sure to sign up for email alerts below if you would like to receive notification of other news, company interviews, and research that we publish from time to time.
Opinions expressed are those of the author, interviewee, or Funds and are subject to change, are not intended to be a forecast of future events, a guarantee of future results, nor investment advice. Fund holdings and allocations are subject to change at any time and should not be considered a recommendation to buy or sell any security. United Technologies is not a holding of the Fund or affiliated with the Fund.