From phage scale-up to phage piracy: October’s PHAVES talks

Issue 98 | October 23, 2020
8 min read
Capsid and Tail

This month, we hosted two episodes of PHAVES! Here are the recordings, along with brief summaries. Thanks very much to our special guests, Gordon Smith (Fixed Phage), Chloe Jerrold-Jones (Cellexus), and Dr. Rodrigo Ibarra-Chavez (University of Copenhagen).

Sponsor

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This issue was sponsored by Cellexus, which pioneers revolutionary, market leading single-use airlift bioreactor systems and technology.

Email enquiries@cellexus.com for more info.

Capsid & Tail will continue to come out on Fridays

Thanks to everyone who voted on the day they’d prefer to receive Capsid & Tail! The results are in: 71% Friday, 18% Monday, 6% Tuesday, 6% Thursday. So we’ll be sticking with Friday, at least for now!

What’s New

Adaptive Phage Therapeutics (APT) has received Orphan drug designation from the FDA for the use of its PhageBank™ (a continually expanding library of phages) to treat prosthetic joint infections. APT will now be eligible for seven years of U.S. market exclusivity upon FDA approval, will pay less in marketing application fees, will be exempt from performing clinical studies in pediatric patients, and will receive tax credits that reduce clinical development costs.

Biotech newsPhage Therapy

The FDA has authorized Armata Pharmaceuticals to initiate a phase 1b/2a clinical trial, which they are calling “SWARM-P.a.”, to test AP-PA02, its lead phage cocktail candidate, against Pseudomonas aeruginosa airway infections in cystic fibrosis patients. The trial should begin by the end of 2020.

Biotech newsClinical TrialCystic fibrosisPhage Therapy

Vivek Mutalik (Lawrence Berkeley National Lab) and colleagues published their method of high-throughput mapping of the phage resistance landscape in E. coli in PLoS Biology. Sound familiar? We highlighted this paper’s corresponding preprint and backstory in August 2020 in Issue 88 of Capsid & Tail, in which Rohit Kongari interviewed Vivek. Sadly, this was also Dr. Richard Calendar’s final paper (see Community section for additional remarks).

Phage resistancePhage-host interactionsResearch paper

As there is currently no gold standard for developing a phage cocktail, Melissa Haines (University of Leicester, UK) and colleagues set out to describe a novel approach to phage cocktail development by comparing different methods side by side. They found that for phages targeting ESBL-producing E. coli and Klebsiella UTI isolates, planktonic killing assays were as effective as efficiency of plating assays, while being much less time consuming.

Phage TherapyPreprintResearch paperUTI

Before now, only eight phages and two archaeal viruses had been isolated from deep sea vents. Sarah Thiroux (Université de Bretagne Occidentale, France) and colleagues published a new paper describing another: the first head‐tailed virus infecting hyperthermophilic methanogenic deep‐sea archaea. The virus infects Methanocaldococcus species, and infection leads to continuous release of virions, rather than a drop in host growth.

Archaeal virusesDeep sea ventsEnvironmental microbiologyResearch paper

Eveline-Marie Lammens (KU Leuven) and colleagues published a new perspective in Nature Communications that explores the synthetic biology potential of phages for engineering non-model bacteria.

PerspectiveSynthetic biology

Latest Jobs

The Walter Reed Army Institute of Research (Silver Spring, MD) is hiring a senior molecular phage biologist.
The Dixon lab at the University of Lincoln (Lincoln, UK) is hiring a postdoc for a project entitled ‘Novel biocontrol to combat Clostridium perfringens in poultry flocks’.

Community Board

Anyone can post a message to the phage community — and it could be anything from collaboration requests, post-doc searches, sequencing help — just ask!

The phage research community sadly lost one of its greats this month; Dr. Richard Calendar passed away on October 10 following a long battle with prostate cancer.

Rich, as he was known to many, was a renowned UC Berkeley Professor of Molecular Biology (and later of Biochemistry, Biophysics and Structural Biology) from 1968-2020. Based on the many accounts from his colleagues, he was a wonderfully optimistic colleague and friend, whose sense of humor will be deeply missed. He was an international leader in the study of phages targeting E. coli, Listeria monocytogenes, and Bacillus anthracis. He was devoted to teaching, and one of his trainees even won the Nobel prize. Rich is known to many as having written the book on phage (literally!), and he worked at the bench until a month before he died. He will clearly be deeply missed, both by those who knew him and those who missed the chance to meet him.

Read UC Berkeley’s article in memory of Rich here, and read this Life in Science paper written by Rich in 2013, where he candidly sums up how he got into phage science and what he found there. Rest peacefully, Rich, and let us all continue your legacy of collaboration, mentorship, good humor, and curiosity.

In memory

It’s World Phage Week (Oct 22-28)! Check out Twitter (#WorldPhageWeek) for lots of fun posts from the global phage community showcasing fun phage facts, great phage images and art, favourite papers, exciting milestones and more.

Phage communityWorld Phage Week

The Ibadan Bacteriophage Research Team (IBRT) is hosting a series of webinars Oct 26-27 to celebrate World Phage Week! Theme: “Early Career Research in Bacteriophage Studies: A leverage for Bacteriophage Therapy Advancement”. Speakers: Prof. Urmi Bajpai, Dr. Nnadi Nnaemeka, Stephanie Lynch and Dr. Sabrina Green. Registration is now full, so if you secured a spot, lucky you! Otherwise stay tuned for info about possible recordings (follow the IBRT on Twitter for up-to-date info).

Dr. Jason Gill (Center for Phage Technology, Texas A&M) and Dr. Paul Turner (Yale University) will discuss their work on phage therapy to treat drug resistant bacterial infections in a free webinar hosted by The Scientist on Oct 29 from 2:30-4:00 PM Eastern time. Register here.

Virtual Event

PHAVES #10 will be a seminar by Dr. Paul Jaschke, Assistant Professor at Macquarie University, Australia, on Nov. 10, 5:30 PM Eastern Time (GMT-4) / Nov. 11 at 9:30 AM AEST. His talk is entitled “Learning How to Engineer Genomes by Building Phage”, which will cover research stories about highly engineered øX174 phage created in his group and lessons learned about genome engineering in general and phage engineering in particular. Small group networking to follow! Register here.

PHAVESVirtual Event

From phage scale-up to phage piracy: October’s PHAVES talks

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Phage microbiologist and co-founder of Phage Directory
Co-founder
Phage Directory, Atlanta, GA, United States

Jessica Sacher is a co-founder of Phage Directory and has a Ph.D in Microbiology and Biotechnology from the University of Alberta.

For Phage Directory, she takes care of the science, writing, communications, and business aspects.

This month, we hosted two PHAVES events; here are the links to the recordings, along with brief summaries of the events!

PHAVES 8

Up scaling phage production in a small biotech company

YouTube video of PHAVES 8 (39:07)

Summary

  • First, Gordon Smith, Senior Scientist at the Scottish phage biotech company Fixed Phage, filled in for Emma Bell to discuss how their company immobilizes phages on surfaces (from spinach to plastic to pet food and beyond) to minimize bacterial growth.
  • Gordon shared how Fixed Phage has used the Cellexus CellMaker to successfully scale up their phage production.
  • Next (16:38), Chloe Jerrold-Jones, Business Development Manager at Cellexus, provided more detail into how the CellMaker works, and discussed other examples of phage companies and labs who are using it to improve their phage output.
  • Lastly (28:43), we had a Q&A with both speakers.

More on Cellexus

More on Fixed Phage

Thanks very much to Cellexus for sponsoring this episode of PHAVES!

Cellexus Sponsorship Logo

PHAVES 9

Phage-inducible chromosomal islands (PICIs), piracy in the phage world and insights on their application in biotechnology

YouTube video of PHAVES 9 (46:19)

Summary

  • Dr. Rodrigo Ibarra-Chavez, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Copenhagen, shared his research on phage-inducible chromosomal islands (PICIs).
  • PICIs represent a widespread family of highly mobile genetic elements that disseminate virulence and toxin genes among bacterial populations.
  • Rodrigo discussed how PICIs work to parasitize phages, and how they might be exploited in biotech applications.
  • Lastly, a Q&A with Rodrigo

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