Founded in 2017, Phage Directory’s mission is to help unlock the untapped potential of phages for phage therapy and biocontrol by empowering people to access, use and build upon the world’s phage knowledge.
Phages are a massively diverse, ubiquitous natural class of bacteria-targeting viruses. Well-understood phages can be harnessed to precisely detect and manipulate microbes in almost any environment, from the human body to crop fields, from hospitals to beehives.
Harnessing phages for phage therapy can mean treating or preventing bacterial infections, even antibiotic-resistant infections, without harming healthy microbiomes. Using phages as industrial biocontrol agents can mean treating or preventing crop and livestock disease, decontaminating water, protecting pipes from corrosion, and more. Long-term, incorporation of phages into healthcare and industrial processes can reduce our global dependence on antibiotics and keep the superbug crisis from worsening.
The Road Ahead
In July 2019, the Phage Directory team received an Open Science Mini-Grant from Mozilla (made possible by the Leona M. & Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust). These funds will support the creation of a system of tracking phages and phage work around the globe. The project will involve building a phage indexing system and a platform for publishing phage metadata and insights.
As an independent, two-person organization aiming to find a sustainable way to continue operations far into the future, we welcome suggestions for collaborations, partnerships, sources of funding and opportunities to create value for phage researchers, developers, funders and investors.
Open access, affordable, citable, peer-reviewed phage publications, starting with phage characterization reports and phage genome reports.
Clinical Phage Resources
Resources and a closed network for the medical community. Stay on top of clinical trials, case reports, and the latest research and material on phage therapy.
A scroll through Twitter sparks an idea
Jan Zheng and Jessica Sacher created Phage Directory in November 2017. Jessica was a phage biology PhD student, and Jan was a freelance startup consultant and user experience designer. One day, scrolling through Twitter, Jessica saw a tweet from Steffanie Strathdee, the UCSD professor who’d successfully coordinated phage therapy for her husband Tom. (Their story is now a book: The Perfect Predator).
#Phage researchers! I am working with a team to get Burkholderia cepacia phages to treat a 25 y old woman with CF whose infection has failed all #antibiotics. We need lytic non-lysogenic phage URGENTLY to find suitable phage matches. Email firstname.lastname@example.org if you can help!
— Dr Steffanie Strathdee, 🗡️Superbug Slayer 🗡️ (@chngin_the_wrld) November 8, 2017
Steffanie’s tweet urgently called for researchers to donate phages to treat 25-year-old Mallory Smith’s life-threatening lung infection. Antibiotics had stopped working, and phages were her only option.
Digging into the problem and available solutions, Jan and Jessica found that official channels for coordinating phage therapy were sorely lacking. This led them to brainstorm ways they could use their combined backgrounds in tech, user experience design, community-building and phage biology to make a difference. Within a few days, they’d begun building an online directory to track phage labs around the world, and had built a Phage Alert service to help medical doctors find phages for patients with life-threatening antibiotic-resistant infections.
A sad reality crystallizes the need to act
On Wednesday, November 15, 2017, two days before the Phage Directory website went live, the news came that Mallory had passed away. (Mallory’s memoir has since been published as a book: Salt in my Soul). This sad news spurred the project and its founders on, with the hope that better coordination of phage therapy efforts and better access to safe, well-characterized phages could save the lives of future patients.
Early encouragement and support fuel the project
In the weeks that passed, the encouragement of Steffanie Strathdee (who later went on to co-found the Center for Innovative Phage Applications and Therapeutics), Tobi Nagel (founder of Phages for Global Health), Eric Boodman (a STAT News reporter), Joanne Kamens (Director of Addgene) …
Jan and Jessica are accepted into UGA’s NSF I-Corps program to evaluate the market potential for Phage Directory. This was a 6-week customer discovery program that included funding to travel to meet and speak with phage researchers over the next 6 months.
Phage Directory has been completely rebuilt and modernized for a better user experience, and now supports phage labs, organizations, profiles, and more. This new platform lets us catalogue phage metadata and venture into the world of science publications.
August 3, 2019
Phage Insights Launched
Phage Directory launhes its new preprint and micropublication platform, Phage Insights
August 3, 2019
Evergreen Phage Meeting in Olympia, WA
Jan and Jessica attends the Evergreen Phage Meeting in Olympia, WA, and actively starts to recruit authors, reviewers, and editors for Phage Insights, Phage Directory’s new preprint and micropublication platform