‘Cell-based, innovative products for a better future’

Pluristem’s proprietary cell-based technology platform develops cutting-edge therapies and cultured food materials

 IN COLLABORATION with the Tnuva Group, Pluristem will develop raw material for the cultured meat market.  (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
IN COLLABORATION with the Tnuva Group, Pluristem will develop raw material for the cultured meat market.
(photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)

‘We have the potential to change the world, and help create a better society’

'We are spearheading a technological revolution,” explains Yaky Yanay, CEO and president of biotechnology company Pluristem.

“Utilizing the cell-based technology platform we have developed, cells – the building blocks of life – can be produced and expanded in a high-quality manner. This is a technological revolution that will benefit many sectors, from food to medicine and beyond.” 

PLURISTEM CEO and President Yaky Yanay. (Credit: Rami Zerenger)PLURISTEM CEO and President Yaky Yanay. (Credit: Rami Zerenger)

The company, whose shares are traded on Nasdaq and the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange, began its journey in cell therapy development and recently announced a collaboration with Tnuva Group, the largest food producer in Israel.

Together, they will establish a platform for the development, production and marketing of cultured food, creating raw material for the cultured meat market. In the future, the collaboration may be extended to include cultured dairy and fish products.

“Virtually everything in this world is made of cells: our bodies, our foods and – in the future – the drugs we consume,” Yanay adds. “The main idea behind the company’s establishment was developing a system to enable cell expansion in the most ideal environment, mimicking the conditions in the human body. 

PLURISTEM’S BIOREACTOR controls and provides optimal command of nutrients, oxygen, and temperature control. (Credit: Pluristem)PLURISTEM’S BIOREACTOR controls and provides optimal command of nutrients, oxygen, and temperature control. (Credit: Pluristem)

“Cells have been grown for decades in Petri dishes and various other methods, but we succeeded in growing cells in a 3D bioreactor that controls and provides optimal command of nutrients, oxygen and temperature control.”Pluristem started as a company producing cells for medical needs, but with the technological changes and challenges the world is experiencing, it was clear that its scientific capabilities unlocked countless opportunities for collaboration. 

“Our advanced cell production capabilities made us realize we have technology that could be relevant for many cell types,” emphasizes Yanay. “We took note of the global need, in many fields, for systems that can produce cells at a mass scale and a high degree of efficiency and quality. “When we examined our system’s capabilities, we saw it could produce non-human cells from animal and plant sources and expand them efficiently, just as we have done with placental cells.” 

Processes thought to be in the realm of science fiction 20 years ago have today become a reality, such as lab-grown food based on animal or plant cells.

“We are looking at a range of verticals for which our technology is relevant,” Yanay adds. “We realized we have a significant ability to contribute to the world of foodtech. Tnuva needs cells in large quantities and at reasonable prices, and we believe we have a significant advantage over what is currently in the market.“The main advantage of our platform, beyond the ability to expand cells, is its adaptation to the growth conditions that the various cells need.”

In the foodtech world, the source cell is taken from the animal. A starter cell can be muscle, fat or any tissue. Then Pluristem starts by expanding the cell in a 3D environment within the bioreactor system. A similar approach is possible for plant cells.

“Because of our knowledge and experience, we can supply cells in quantities sufficient for commercial use,” Yanay says. “We decided not to establish a foodtech company on our own, but rather to bring in a strong partner who understands the market needs and knows how to implement this knowledge into the end product.“We also chose to work with Tnuva as a reliable partner the regulators, state and customers are familiar with, setting us up for leadership in the field,” Yanay adds.

Today, Israel’s biotechnology field is in a better place than it was 15 years ago, and the number of companies in the country has tripled in that time.

“Regulation is a critical factor. In Singapore, laws have already been approved in the cultured meat field. In Israel, we hope it will happen soon since this is an opportunity for the country to create employment and knowledge and to lead innovation. 

“At Pluristem, our employees understand the greater significance of our work. We have the potential to change the world, and we will also help create a better society. The development of the industry will make Israel a leading nation in the field, and through technological collaborations in the fields of science and health, we will hopefully also create a better world to live in.”

Strategic partners

Yanay emphasizes that the company, which works in accordance with the Health Ministry, US FDA, EU European Medicines Agency and other regulatory agencies in its pharmaceutical development, is looking to collaborate with strategic partners to leverage the technological capabilities of its systems. 

“Our vision is to produce a series of companies, all of which will have their own management and financing but will have access to our technology platform and the knowledge we have accumulated over two decades,” Yanay reveals. “They will have access to a technology in which many millions of dollars have been invested so that these companies can quickly stand on their own two feet and become leaders in their sectors.

“We are looking to build significant ventures with strategic partners who know how to define their product, along with the ability to apply our proven technology and experience to create a company with competitive advantages in quality and time to market.

“We are also looking for investors to join us on this amazing journey. As a company, we can break through any limits imaginable – the possibilities are almost endless.”

Pluristem places emphasis on advancing the biotechnology industry in Israel. The company has research partnerships with significant entities, including NASA, the US Department of Defense and other US government agencies. They also receive support from major institutions such as the Israel Innovation Authority and the European Investment Bank, as well as research grants from the European Horizon 2020 program. 

‘An intelligent drug’

When Pluristem was founded, the company focused on the field of medicine. Then the scientific world increasingly began to realize that placental cells have advantages in their potential to revolutionize the field of therapy. “The placenta is an amazing organ,” explains Yanay. “Placentas offer the youngest and most potent cells, and their primary advantage is that they allow us to inject people with cell-based therapies, without the need for genetic matching between the placental donor and the patient.”

At the base of the technology is the bioreactor, which was developed at the Weizmann Institute of Science and Haifa’s Technion-Israel Institute of Technology. Pluristem acquired the technology and, over the years, developed intellectual property and manufacturing expertise protected by more than 130 patents.

“Mothers donate the placentas after a full-term birth of a healthy baby by elective cesarean section,” states Yanay. “Comprehensive blood tests are done to ensure the absence of any infectious diseases. We then take the placenta in a sterile bag to the company’s clean rooms and take out the cell population. Once we have pooled our target population from the placenta, a process of cell growth and expansion begins.”

The culmination of the process is the transfer of cells to bioreactor systems for 3D growth. The company creates enough material for over 20,000 treatments from each placenta. 

“Our understanding that the placenta is a good source comes from the basic concept of pregnancy. It’s the only place in nature we know where two immune systems – the mother’s and the baby’s – coexist without immune rejection of one another. The mother may even serve as a surrogate mother, and yet her immune system will not reject that of the fetus. 

“The entire wonderful immunological process is overseen by the placenta. Our body is the perfect bioreactor, where everything is calibrated and controlled, from temperature to gases. It must be balanced 24 hours a day, and this is what we mimic with our systems.”

For 15 years, Pluristem has conducted a number of clinical trials in various fields such as muscle regeneration after hip fracture surgery, Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome associated with COVID-19, and incomplete hematopoietic recovery following Hematopoietic Cell Transplantation. Pluristem has also carried out several US government-funded projects to treat Acute Radiation Syndrome. 

“Over the years, we have treated hundreds of patients in Israel, the US, Europe and the Far East during our clinical trials. The placental cells originating in Israel were tested among a wide variety of populations without distinguishing between differences in gender and race,” Yanay says.

Groundbreaking technology allows Pluristem to penetrate diverse industries and dramatically impact our lifestyle and quality of life.

“The idea behind our development is a drug on a completely new scale. While we are used to seeing chemical or biological drugs in the market, which add or perform specific actions on our bodies, Pluristem is giving the body a drug that knows how to communicate with it. 

“Our cells communicate with the body and receive signals from the patient’s body. They respond in real-time and secrete the same medical proteins, which at the end of the process lead the body in the direction of healing, based on the signals our product receives. This is an intelligent drug and a biofeedback system that is completely different from almost anything we know in the industry today.”

“Because the cells are very potent, they are relevant for a number of indications, from which today we can identify and produce a number of products from each placenta,” he notes. “The great value behind Pluristem is our understanding, at an early stage, that the key is control of the cells and manufacturing using 3D technology.” Additional groundbreaking developments can be expected in the near future.

This article was written in cooperation with Pluristem.Translated by Alan Rosenbaum.