Shalom Life | April 27, 2015

Five Israeli Biotech Companies That Look to Change Medicine Through Stem Cell Research

A look at medical companies that currently stand at the forefront of stem cell technology and regenerative medicine

By: Ben Miron

Published: February 10th, 2014 in Health » Israel

Five Israeli Biotech Companies That Look to Change Medicine Through Stem Cell Research

Medical companies throughout the world are pinning their hopes for miracle cures on stem cell therapies. By definition, an embryonic stem cell is one that has the potential to turn into any cell in the human body. Because of this unique ability, stem cells are central to the field of regenerative medicine which seeks to restore or establish normal bodily function in sick patients by regenerating human cells, tissues or organs.

Israeli researchers have long been at the forefront of this fascinating field. This is, in part, due to a head start provided by Israeli government policy and strong social support for research using embryonic as well as adult stem cells. As a result of this support, Israel has birthed a plethora of academic research as well as some notable biotech companies putting the tools of academia to practical use.

A recent investment by Johnson & Johnson in Capricor, an American company developing a stem cell solution for heart disease, has reinvigorated enthusiasm for the field in 2014 as well as quieted some concerns about its commercial potential.

Given the change in the industry climate, it’s a good time to review some of the most exciting stem cell companies in the land of milk and honey. These five companies – all of them at the forefront of stem cell technology and regenerative medicine – are developing cutting edge treatments once only dreamed of in science fiction.

1. BrainStorm Cell Therapeutics – fighting Alzheimer’s and ALS

brainstorm Five Israeli Biotech Companies Using Stem Cells To Change The Face Of MedicineWhile the peripheral nervous system, which is composes of the nerves outside the brain and spinal cord, has an intrinsic ability for repair and regeneration, the central nervous system is, for the most part, incapable of self-repair and regeneration. BrainStorm Cell Therapeutics, founded in 2004, is a clinical stage company developing a breakthrough stem cell solution designed to solve that problem. It’s called NurOwn.

NurOwn, based on research by Doctor Eldad Melamed and Doctor Daniel Offen, is created by extracting stem cells from patients and driving them through differentiation until they become specialized to support regrowth and protection of neurons. Focusing on treating Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS, often referred to as Lou Gehrig’s disease), Parkinson’s disease (PD), and Multiple Sclerosis (MS), diseases of the nervous system that cause symptoms ranging from minor difficulty with sensing touch, vision, and mobility to far more severe consequences, including paralysis and even death.

In light of their breakthrough approach, Brainstorm has been granted orphan status by the FDA and EU and is currently conducting clinical trials for ALS. They have a Phase IIa ALS clinical trial with NurOwn at the Hadassah University Medical Center in Jerusalem and are currently planning Phase II studies in the US.

2. Cell Cure – healing the blind

cellCureHeaderImage e1391694510122 Five Israeli Biotech Companies Using Stem Cells To Change The Face Of MedicineCell Cure, now a subsidiary of BioTime, is a preclinical stage company founded in 2005 based on technology from Hadassah Hospital’s Human Embryonic Stem Cell Research Center. Their technologies, developed from embryonic stem cells, focus on treating diseases that affect the eyes and the nervous system.

Their lead product, OpRegen, is specifically trying to treat age-related macular degeneration (AMD), the leading cause of vision loss in the elderly. AMD causes damage to the macula, a small spot near the center of the retina, which is made up of millions of light-sensing cells essential to clear vision. The most promising therapy for advanced cases of AMD is the replacement of these damaged cells. However, the lack of a reliable and ample supply of donor cells has limited transplantation as a therapeutic approach to AMD.

To make OpRegen, Cell Cure uses a patented method that drives the differentiation of human embryonic stem cells into these specialized cells of the macula. These cells can then be implanted to restore vision to the millions suffering from AMD.

3. Kadimastem – making drug-trials safer

kadimastem e1391695051215 Five Israeli Biotech Companies Using Stem Cells To Change The Face Of MedicineFounded in 2009 by Yossi Ben-Yossef and Doctor Michel Revel, Kadimastem is a development stage company. Recently, Kadimastem formed a partnership with Merk-Serono, a German pharmaceutical company, to use their stem cell technologies to perform drug screening. Their technology grants the ability to safely test therapies directly on specialized cells, allowing better insight into how therapies will work before using them in clinical trials and, as a result, preventing potential harm to patients.

By transforming stem cells into the specialized brain cells that produce myelin, the fatty substance which functions to insulate the brains neural wiring (axons), Kadimastem is helping study drugs for neurodegenerative diseases. These brain cells, called oligodendrocytes, are treatment targets for MS, a disease in which this special insulating myelin is destroyed by the immune system. In cases of MS, it’s the destruction of myelin that causes symptoms ranging from limb numbness and vision loss to paralysis.

Producing cells on a large scale for drug screening is just one way Kadimastem is working to fight disease. Kadimastem is also building on its own regenerative medicine therapies to treat neurodegenerative disease as well as diabetes.

4. Pluristem – treating injuries and unblocking blood vessels

Pluristem 300x209 e1391695335887 Five Israeli Biotech Companies Using Stem Cells To Change The Face Of MedicinePluristem Therapeutics, founded in 2001 by Shai Meretzki of the Technion, is a clinical-stage biotechnology company using stem cells of placental origin to develop cell therapies for various diseases including peripheral vascular disease (PVD), pulmonary arterial hypertension and muscle injury.

In peripheral vascular disease, patients develop blockages in their vessels preventing blood flow to their limbs and starving them of oxygen and nutrients. This can occur either acutely or chronically, leading to limb pain, impaired wound healing or even amputation. One of their lead products, PLX-PAD, is in a phase II clinical trial currently recruiting patients. By infusing these specialized cells, they aim to re-establish blood flow to the affected limbs and promote their healing. PLX-PAD was also being tested in a phase I/II trial for the treatment of muscle injury; the results, presented on January 21, showed that PLX-PAD cells were safe and statistical significance was reached for the primary efficacy endpoint of the study.

Because of their origin, at the interface of mother and child, placental cells are immunoprivileged, meaning they do not provoke the immune system when transplanted. As a result, Pluristem’s therapies can be used “off the shelf” without matching the donor cells to the unique immune fingerprint of the recipient with no risk of rejection by the new host.

5. Orgenesis

organesis e1391695429571 Five Israeli Biotech Companies Using Stem Cells To Change The Face Of MedicineOrgenesis, founded in 2010 by Doctor Sarah Ferber (head of endocrine research at Sheba Medical Center), is seeking to overcome donor shortages by making stem cell solutions for transplantation, specifically for diabetes.

Diabetes is a disease that affects many millions of people worldwide. In Type 1 Diabetes (T1D) the immune system destroys a special subset of cells in the pancreas (a hormone producing organ) that help control blood sugar. These special cells are called beta cells, and they function by detecting levels of sugar in the blood then releasing a specialized hormone called insulin. After these cells are destroyed the body can no longer make enough insulin and diabetes patients must inject insulin to stay alive.

Orgenesis‘s treatment aims to transform liver cells into insulin-producing cells in the patients, thus eliminating the need for a transplant.

Ben Miron is a medical student and researcher at NYU School of Medicine. He is fascinated by the amazing emerging technologies and discoveries being made in the life sciences as they pertain to healthcare. Read about some of these mind-blowing and bordering on sci-fi advances happening in Israel on his blog milkandscience.com and follow him on twitter @milkandscience.

Reprinted with permission from No Camels - Israeli Innovation News

WATCH: Tel Aviv Zookeeper Captures Awesome Footage of Animals Drinking WATCH: Tel Aviv Zookeeper Captures Awesome Footage of Animals Drinking TrendingIsraeli Pharmaceutical Company Using Cannabis Extract to Treat Diabetes Israeli Pharmaceutical Company Using Cannabis Extract to Treat Diabetes TrendingRabbis, Mental Health Professionals Holding Conference to Support Young LGBT Jews Rabbis, Mental Health Professionals Holding Conference to Support Young LGBT Jews Trending
 

WATCH: Jerry Seinfeld Takes Over Late Night From David Letterman

April 27, 2015 | By Caitlin Marceau
WATCH: Jerry Seinfeld Takes Over Late Night From David Letterman

In addition to performing the original routine he performed his first time on the show, Seinfeld also took over the host's seat to grill Letterman on his resignation

Read More

150 Israeli Students Will Speak Arabic on Jerusalem Light Rail in Solidarity with Arab Citizens

April 27, 2015 | By Caitlin Marceau
150 Israeli Students Will Speak Arabic on Jerusalem Light Rail in Solidarity with Arab Citizens

The demonstration is in protest of violence towards Arabic speakers in Jerusalem, and in support of freedom of language

Read More

WATCH: Amy Schumer’s New Doll is the Perfect Toy for Adults

April 27, 2015 | By Caitlin Marceau
WATCH: Amy Schumer’s New Doll is the Perfect Toy for Adults

The commercial for her new 'It's Amy!' doll will have you smiling like a kid, and doubled over laughing

Read More

Meet Your Jewish MLB All-Stars: Class Of 2015

April 27, 2015 | By Harlan Nemers
Meet Your Jewish MLB All-Stars: Class Of 2015

Were the first words in the Torah supposed to be "In the big inning?"

Read More

Ever Wonder What Israel's Favorite Soccer Team Is?

April 27, 2015 | By Sy Berg
Ever Wonder What Israel's Favorite Soccer Team Is?

Study reveals that Chelsea, owned by Jewish pro-Israeli billionaire Roman Abramovich, is the most popular English team in the Middle East

Read More

New York Times Slammed for Running Article Titled 'Israeli Police Officers Kill Two Palestinian Men'

April 27, 2015 | By Daniel Koren
New York Times Slammed for Running Article Titled 'Israeli Police Officers Kill Two Palestinian Men'

"What is so hard about [a] straightforward headline accurately depicting the nature and chronology of events?" asks watchdog group CAMERA

Read More

Toronto UJA Opens Nepal Emergency Relief Fund

April 27, 2015 | By Shalom Life Staff
Toronto UJA Opens Nepal Emergency Relief Fund

One hundred percent of funds raised will provide immediate humanitarian aid to disaster victims and their families

Read More

British Tory Candidate Says She'll Never Back 'the Jew'

April 27, 2015 | By Daniel Koren
British Tory Candidate Says She'll Never Back 'the Jew'

Conservative candidate Gulzabeen Afsar is being asked to apologize after singling out Labor leader Ed MIliband on Facebook

Read More

More Headlines