Capsid and Tail

a weekly phage periodical
Issue Seven: Crowdsourcing Special
November 30, 2018

Special issue: An update on our current phage crowdsourcing campaign

To provide a window into what happens during a phage hunt, we're devoting this issue to showing some of what's happened over the last three weeks. We've put together an infographic to help illustrate how labs across the globe have come together in support of this cause.

Three weeks ago, we went over how phage crowdsourcing works – catch up on that here. Coincidentally, the same day we released that issue, we received a request for phages for a patient. We put out a Phage Alert, and have since received an incredibly impressive response from the phage community.


Phage Therapy Infographic

Link to the infographic: https://phage.directory/PhageTherapyCrowdsourcing.png

But First...

The European Research Council just released the results of its Consolidator Grants 2018 competition, and two prominent phage research labs have been funded! Many congratulations to the labs of Rob Lavigne of KU Leuven, who will tap into phages as synthetic biology tools, and Anat Herskovits of Tel Aviv University, who will study phage-pathogen cooperation during mammalian infection.

Grant FundingLab Spotlight

A new paper by Gerlach et al. shows that a phage gene can help MRSA evade immune defenses. See also this commentary on the paper.

Research

Another mini phage therapy documentary is out! This one was made by Freethink, is 12 min long, and documents the amazing story of “Paige’s Phages” – Pseudomonas phages from Ben Chan’s lab at Yale helped a young woman regain her deteriorating lung function.

Phage Therapy

Kathryn Kauffman and Martin Polz of MIT have developed new ways of streamlining phage propagation and titration methods to save us all time and materials. You can also find the protocols here on Protocols.io!

ResearchProtocols

A group of students from the Technical University of Munich won second prize in the 2018 International Genetically Engineered Machine (iGEM) Competition for their work creating a cell-free phage propagation system called Phactory. Amazing work!

NewsSynthetic biologyStudent Spotlight

Martha Clokie at the University of Leicester has an opening for a research technician to study Salmonella genome biology as part of a larger phage therapy project. Apply now until Dec. 10, 2018.

JobsResearch TechnicianExpired
2018-11-30Expiring Soon

Ellie Jameson, Andrew Millard and Freya Harrison have an opening for a co-supervised PhD student to work on the potential of natural phage communities in biofilm degradation at the University of Warwick. Apply by Jan. 31, 2019.

PhD
2018-11-30

The University of Massachusetts Medical School has an opening for a tenure-track assistant professor position in virology. Apply by May 13, 2019.

Tenure-trackAssistant Prof

Community Board

Have a question or request for the phage community? Post it here and reach > 200 phage enthusiasts spanning academia, industry, medicine, and beyond. Feel free to be creative about what you might ask! (e.g. collaborations, advice, seeking opportunities)

The community board is empty this week. Be the first to post something for next week!

Special issue: An update on our current phage crowdsourcing campaign

Three weeks ago, we went over how phage crowdsourcing works – catch up on that here. Coincidentally, the same day we released that issue, we received a request for phages for a patient. We put out a Phage Alert, and have since received an incredibly impressive response from the phage community.


Phage Therapy Infographic

To provide a window into what happens during a phage hunt, we’re devoting this issue to showing some of what’s happened over the last three weeks. We’ve put together the above infographic to help illustrate how labs across the globe have come together in support of this cause.

Link to the infographic: https://phage.directory/PhageTherapyCrowdsourcing.png

On Nov. 9, 2018, we received an email from Dr. Mikael Skurnik about a patient hospitalized with severe, antibiotic resistant Klebsiella pneumoniae. The patient’s doctor was already on board, and Dr. Skurnik was already looking for phages that might work. The Skurnik lab had already tested 27 phages (some of which had been contributed by other collaborators). So far, only one that could lyse the patient’s isolate had been found, and more were needed.

That day, we put out a Phage Alert, which means that anyone subscribed to the service at the time (89 members) received an email.

By the end of that same day, we’d received emails from labs around the world offering to either send Klebsiella phages to Dr. Skurnik’s lab in Finland, or to receive the patient’s strain for phage testing in their own labs. Several others emailed to suggest names of other labs that might be able to help.

The offers came from across the globe: from the USA, UK, Israel, and Switzerland. Most came within the first day after the Phage Alert.

As of today, just three weeks later, a total of 10 labs have contributed/tested phages and at least four more are preparing to do so. So far, 175+ phages have been tested, and five of these can lyse the patient’s strain.

This phage hunt is not over. Some labs are still in the process of testing their phage collections and isolating new phages against the strain. We’re still working to identify other labs interested in helping out, so please get in touch if you or someone you know can help.

We are immensely proud of the response from the phage community so far. Thank you to everyone who has responded to or forwarded our Phage Alert, and especially to everyone who has taken time away from their research to prepare, ship and test phages and strains on behalf of this patient.

Over the next couple of weeks, we’ll be back with another update. We’re also planning to bring you more information and perspectives from some of the labs involved in the process. That said, if you’ve been involved in a phage hunt (either this one or one in the past), please reach out to us! We’d love to chat with you about your experience so we can help improve the process and inform the community about what it’s like to be involved on the front lines.

Thanks for reading!

Jessica and Jan <>={

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: How much phage should be sent?
A: 200 uL per phage is sufficient

Q: How should the phage be shipped?
A: Phages can be shipped as a filtered lysate by Fedex at room temperature

Q: Can the patient’s strain be shipped, instead of our lab sending phages?
A: Yes, although this is not as trivial as shipping phages.

Q: Do you provide a standard material transfer agreement (MTA)?
A: We don’t, but we can provide a copy of an MTA that was used in a previous phage therapy case.

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

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Have an idea for a story, news to share, or wanting to write an opinion piece? Get in touch at [email protected] or tweet @phagedirectory

For every issue of Capsid & Tail, we are committed to getting our facts straight, but we’re not experts in the information we’re bringing to you. If you feel that we’ve missed an important viewpoint, or if you have something to add, please reach out to us by emailing [email protected]. We’d love to hear from you, and we’d be happy to revisit topics we’ve covered (ideally with added information and viewpoints from community members like you!).

Lastly, please reach out if you’re interested in writing for us, or have suggestions for future issues!