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Israel-based Pluristem Therapeutics Inc. (PSTI - Snapshot Report) recently announced that partner United Therapeutics Corporation (UTHR - Analyst Report) intends to commence a phase I study in Australia using Pluristem's PLacental eXpanded (PLX-PAD) cells following favorable preclinical studies.

PLX-PAD cells will be injected intravenously (IV) to humans for the first time in the proposed study. The trial will be conducted on patients diagnosed with pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH) following approval by the Australian regulatory authorities.  

The patients suffering from PAH experience an increase in blood pressure in the arteries of the lungs. The increase in pressure leads to an increased workload on the right side of the heart.

The trial will span more than a year and will evaluate the safety of three different dose levels of PLX-PAD. The study will also examine other effects of PLX-PAD on PAH patients such as changes in the ability to exercise and on other tests, which are used to measure the disease severity.

Pluristem develops placenta-based cell therapies. The cells from placenta are derived using the company’s proprietary PluriX therapy and are known as PLacental eXpanded cells.

We note that United Therapeutics and Pluristem had entered into a licensing agreement in Jun 2011 as per which United Therapeutics develops, markets and sells Pluristem's PLX-PAD cells for PAH. Pluristem develops and manufactures cell therapy products in collaboration with companies like United Therapeutics or through research and clinical institutions.

Pluristem expects that the clinical trial on humans will open up potential new fields for PLX cells in future.

Meanwhile, Celgene Corporation (CELG - Analyst Report) is also carrying out research on stem cells derived from the human placenta as well as from the umbilical cord for the treatment of different diseases.

Pluristem carries a Zacks Rank #3 (Hold). Pharma stocks, such as Medivation Inc. (MDVN - Analyst Report), currently appear to be attractive with a Zacks Rank #2 (Buy).