An Israeli biotech company’s innovative cell therapy shows growing promise as a breakthrough treatment for medical disorders at home and at war, including radiation poisoning in the wake of a nuclear bomb or disaster.
Peer-reviewed research published in Nature BMT this month showed the efficacy of Pluri Inc.’s cell therapy in treating patients recovering from bone marrow transplants. The promising results follow the company’s announcement in July of a major U.S. government contract to develop the same cell product, PLX-R18, as a medical countermeasure for acute radiation syndrome – more commonly known as nuclear radiation poisoning.
The ARS research project is being conducted with the U.S. Department of Defense and funded by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.
Nitsan Halevy, Pluri’s chief medical officer, said the new findings lend further validation to the “potent potential” of PLX-R18 as a wide-ranging cell therapy for blood-related disorders including hematopoietic ARS.
“The publication of these findings in the esteemed Nature BMT journal, along with the backing of NIAID, significantly bolsters our H-ARS program and advances us toward the goal of marketing authorization,” Halevy said. “As a groundbreaking, first-in-class solution, PLX-R18’s capacity to augment hematopoietic system recovery and effectively manage diverse cytopenia holds immense promise.”
In the study, Pluri’s PLX-R18 cell therapy successfully promoted increased blood counts in patients recovering from hematopoietic cell transplantation (HCT), or bone marrow transplants. The increased blood counts continued for as long as 12 months after just two applications – as opposed to the current standard of care that requires frequent and ongoing treatment – and reduced the need for patients to receive blood transfusions.
PLX-R18 has already received Orphan Drug Designation from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for the treatment of graft failure, incomplete recovery following HCT, and acute radiation syndrome. The ARS application in particular has gained attention in Washington, D.C., where members of Congress and the Biden administration are closely monitoring Russian nuclear threats and looking to improve U.S. readiness for a potential attack or accident.
If successful, the joint research project with DOD could validate PLX-R18 as the first cost-effective, scalable treatment for ARS in the event of a wide-ranging nuclear disaster. Under the three-year government contract, Pluri and DOD aim to develop the cell therapy as a medical countermeasure that could be acquired for the U.S. Strategic National Stockpile.
The contract was announced last month on the heels of rising nuclear threats from Russian President Vladimir Putin and as skirmishes in Ukraine inched closer to European nuclear power plants. In general, medical countermeasures have failed to keep pace with nuclear weapons that are exponentially more powerful than the atomic bombs used in World War II.
Based in Haifa, Pluri is seen as one of Israel’s most innovative companies and a proven pioneer in cell replication technology.
After establishing its expertise in advancing novel medical treatments, the company recently expanded to other corners of the life sciences landscape, including cultivated foods, ag-tech and biologics. Pluri received a major biotech award in 2022 when the wide-ranging applications of its 3D cell expansion platform were recognized as the industry’s cell technology innovation of the year.