Off the Shelf Platform: Efrat Kaduri from Pluri Inc. In a Riveting Conversation with PharmaShots

Shots: 

Recently, Pluri launched its placental allogenic MAIT cell platform for immunotherapy treatment of solid tumors. Mucosal Associated Invariant T (MAIT) cells offer better advantages as compared to conventional T cells 

Today, we have with us Efrat Kaduri shedding light on the potential of placental MAIT cells in treating solid tumors 

While highlighting the intellectual property portfolio of the MAIT cell platform, Efrat points out the unavailability of cell-based immunotherapy for solid tumors 

Saurabh: Pluri’s MAIT cell expansion technology sounds revolutionary. Can you walk us through the moment that led to this breakthrough, and how it has overcome the challenges in scaling MAIT cells?   

Efrat: The placenta, a readily available source of allogeneic cells with potent therapeutic potential, has long been a focus of Pluri’s research. Recognizing the limitations of current autologous immunotherapy approaches in terms of scalability, this deep understanding of the placenta, coupled with our expertise in 3D cell manufacturing, fueled our innovative spirit. This has led to the development of a breakthrough technology for expanding potent immune cells like MAIT cells  

Saurabh: What are the next steps in the development of the MAIT cell platform? Are there any planned clinical trials, and if so, what is the expected timeline?    

Efrat: Pluri is actively advancing our MAIT cell platform towards an Investigational New Drug (IND) application. We’re continuously optimizing protocols to ensure efficient expansion and engineering of these potent immune cells. While we can’t disclose specific clinical trial plans due to being a public company, we’re excited about the ongoing progress. We encourage you to follow our website and social media for future announcements regarding advancements and potential collaborations. This will allow us to keep you informed as we move closer to bringing this innovative therapy to patients.  

Saurabh: How does Pluri’s MAIT cell platform differentiate itself from other emerging or existing cell therapies for solid Tumors?    

Efrat: MAIT cells hold great potential in treating solid tumors. Unlike conventional T cells, MAIT cells are highly enriched in tissues and express unique tissue-homing chemokine receptor repertoire, these internal features differentiate MAIT from regular T cells. In addition, Pluri’s process development protocols for MAIT cells isolation, separation and growth, have been presented as an improved and innovative procedure. Allogeneic immunotherapy production requires an optimal process that allows a maximal number of cells to treat many patients as opposed to autologous products.  

First, our isolation process allows a higher amount of MAIT cells compared to other origins. 

Second, our patented three-dimensional (3D) system and method for culturing and activating immune cells on a large scale, is creating new and innovative allogeneic products in a tightly controlled, fully automated, efficient and scalable manner. 

Last, adaptation to the type of solid tumor will be made in combination with the proper antigen. 

We believe that combining MAIT biological advantages with our manufacturing platform will create an allogenic cell therapy in high quality and quantity and with features that are better for the treatment of solid tumors. Currently, there is no approved cell-based immunotherapy for solid tumors, autologous nor allogeneic. There is a need for an “off the shelf” technology that will allow faster administration of high-quality efficacious CAR cells at a lower cost 

Saurabh: Affordability is often a hurdle in healthcare. How is Pluri approaching this issue to ensure market access and affordability of MAIT cell therapy for cancer patients?  

Efrat: Major challenges of immunotherapy include significant variation between patients in response to treatment; quality and quantity of the cells – taken from a healthy donor or the patient’s body; long production time; high production costs. Off-the-shelf allogeneic products have enormous potential as they are derived from healthy donors and there is no need for additional medical intervention of harvesting cells from the patient. In addition, the high quality of the cells together with its unique biological characterization may increase therapeutic efficiency and availability, and cost savings.  

Saurabh: Can you help us understand better Pluri’s intellectual property portfolio related to the MAIT cell platform?  

Efrat: Pluri’s rich IP portfolio of issued patents and pending patent applications spans globally, with over 140 active and granted patents including families relevant to modular bioreactors and 3D manufacturing process of placenta-based cells. Recently, we were granted with a patent outlining a system and method for culturing and activating immune cells using a three-dimensional (3D) packed bed bioreactor on a large scale, creating new and innovative allogeneic products in a tightly controlled, fully automated, efficient and scalable manner. Our approach, focusing on the substantially distinct process, phenotype and functions of Pluri’s CAR-MAIT cells, sets it apart significantly from existing filings. We are confident in securing a unique IP position that will afford us significant operational freedom within this domain.  

Saurabh: How will the expertise of the newly formed Scientific Advisory Board contribute to the development and commercialization of Pluri’s MAIT cell platform? 

Efrat: Globally renowned oncology researchers, Dr. Prasad S. Adusumilli and Dr. Richard L. Kendall, joined Pluri’s Scientific Advisory Board. They bring their tremendous expertise to provide strategic counsel to advance our immune-oncology project. Today, experts recognize the immense potential of MAIT cells, combined with Pluri’s cell expansion technology. We believe that as our project progresses, it will gain more and more interest and will ripen towards commercialization and arriving to market.  

Saurabh: If MAIT cell therapy lives up to its promise, how would it change the landscape of cancer treatment, specifically for patients battling solid Tumors? 

Efrat: CAR-T therapies have revolutionized blood cancers, but solid tumors remain a challenge. Pluri’s MAIT cells offer a potential breakthrough as MAIT cells seem adept at navigating the complex solid tumor environment. Our allogeneic platform, using readily available placentas, could create a cost-effective, “off-the-shelf” therapy for solid tumors. This has the potential to transform cancer treatment worldwide, offering hope and accessibility to a vast number of patients  

Saurabh: How does the launch of the MAIT cell platform fit into Pluri’s long-term vision for transforming cell-based therapies? 

Efrat: Pluri’s technology fuels the development of various platforms that can be used in any industry that requires mass cell production. Our cell expansion platforms are quickly becoming the new gold standard for developing solutions that will improve global quality of life and promote sustainability in a wide range of applications and fields. In this manner, Pluri’s MAIT platform is no different. 
We offer a range of possible solutions based on Placental MAIT cells, providing distinct advantages such as: 

Allogeneic, off-the-shelf, ready to use 

Potent effector cells, targeting tumors through multiple mechanisms 

Potential for better migration to solid tumors 

Cost effective 

Scalable 3D cell expansion technology 

Low potential for GvHD 

Potentially improved persistence in vivo amid low alloreactivity profile 

Image Source: Canva 

About the Author: 

 

Efrat Kaduri 

Efrat Kaduri, now Chief Business Development Officer – Pharma, was appointed Vice President Business Development in February 2022, after serving as Director of Business Development and Marketing since October 2019 and, prior to that, as Director of Business, Investor and Public Relations since 2014. Before Joining Pluri, Mrs. Kaduri worked as a strategic advisor and spokesperson for several business entities including technological incubators, medical and agrotech startups. Previous positions also included Elron Electronic Industries (TASE: ELRN), the technology investment arm of IDB group. Mrs. Kaduri holds a Master of Business Administration (MBA) from the Haifa University and a BA in Psychology and Communications from the City University of New York. 

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