Viktoria Gavrilina /
4 September 2014Genetics

Pluristem's IP strategy: great expectations

Several years after scientists found a way to harvest stem cells efficiently from the placenta after birth, companies are turning to it increasingly as a source for cell-based therapies.

The organ that for nine months keeps both mother and baby healthy during pregnancy and which, further research suggests, also plays a role in their long-term health, is a rich source of stem cells.

However, so understudied is the placenta that the Maryland-based Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NIH) has announced a Human Placenta Project, an initiative aimed at “unlocking the secrets” of the one-pound (500g) organ.

The NIH hopes that the project will create a greater understanding of the placenta’s structure, development and function. Meanwhile, one company in Israel is using the placenta’s potential to develop novel therapies for the treatment of cardiovascular diseases and pre-eclampsia.

Pluristem Therapeuticas extracts cells from donated placentas and cultures them using a proprietary technology to create its patented PLX, or ‘placental expanded’ cells, a drug delivery platform that releases therapeutic proteins in response to different inflammatory diseases.

As Zami Aberman, chairman and chief executive of Pluristem, explains, placental cells’ unique position as an intermediary between mother and baby means they’re less likely to be rejected by the body after administration.

“In nature, the placenta is a place where the mother and the baby are communicating,” he says. “Even though they have separate immunological systems, they are not attacking each other.”

Aberman continues: “PLX cells have been injected into patients in clinical studies two weeks apart, or three months apart, from the same donor, without an immune reaction, which cannot be achieved by other cells.”

Pluristem cultures its cells using a 3D scaffold, as opposed to plastic 2D plates, which can make the cells behave a certain way. “When they reach confluence on a 2D plate they send signals to stop growing,” Aberman says.

“We’re generating a 3D micro-environment for the cells that is completely different from the 2D,” Aberman explains.

“To the cells it’s a human-like micro-environment.”

He continues: “The 3D cell-to-cell communication and the controlled culture environment in the bio-reactor enable us to achieve different gene expressions that allow us to generate the required secretion profiles for specific therapeutics.”

What Pluristem gets are off-the-shelf cells that can help heal damaged tissue, such as muscle, help tendon injuries and repair rotator cuffs.


Pluristem acquired the basic IP on the 3D culturing technology from the Weizmann Institute of Science and the Technion–Israel Institute of Technology in 2007.

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