A fresh look at last century’s phages

Issue 108 | January 8, 2021
10 min read
Capsid and Tail

Public Health England operates the National Collection of Type Cultures (NCTC). They’ve recently re-launched their collection of phages, just in time for their 100th anniversary!

The NCTC in England has freshly re-characterized 100 phages originally collected for bacterial typing in the 1950s-1990s. If you want your phages to last as long as these, this is a great place to deposit!


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Registration is now open for Phage Futures 2021, which will take place virtually Feb 24-26, 2021! The theme will be translating phage-based applications into clinically & commercially viable therapeutics. Come hear from 25+ industry-leading speakers, and get 10% off with code PD10!

Add your voice to the State of Phage 2020 Survey!

State of Phage 2020 logo

In celebration of our 100th issue of Capsid & Tail, we launched a survey called State of Phage 2020! We created this survey to help us all better understand the phage research community globally, including what kind of phages people are collecting, what methods they’re using, and more. If you work with phages, please fill it out! We’ll compile and share the results in Capsid & Tail in 2021, and repeat the survey annually so we can all follow and share our community’s exciting growth over time.

Thanks so much to the 117 labs who’ve completed the survey, and to those who have shared it!! We’ll be keeping it open a little longer, then sharing results over the course of 2021!

We’d love if you continued sharing it with friends! https://survey.phage.directory/

Take the State of Phage 2020 Survey

What’s New

US biotech company Felix Biotechnology announced the initiation of its first clinical trial, CYPHY, a phase 1/2 single center trial that will test its first targeted phage therapy candidate, YPT-01, against chronic P. aeruginosa infections in cystic fibrosis. The trial will take place at Yale University.

Biotech newsClinical TrialPhage Therapy

Pherecydes Pharma intends to list on the Euronext Growth® Market in Paris, a European equity trading market designed for small to medium-sized firms. Pherecydes Pharma has developed a portfolio of phages against Staphylococcus aureus, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, and Escherichia coli, and will be pursuing an individualized treatment strategy which includes screening a large number of phages and selecting the efficient ones using a phagogram.

Biotech newsPhage TherapyPress Release

David Lebeaux (Université de Paris) and colleagues published the first demonstration of phage therapy in a lung-transplanted cystic fibrosis patient infected with pandrug resistant A. xylosoxidans. They successfully carried out two rounds of therapy on a 12-year-old patient with complex airway colonization of eight distinct types of phage-resistant and -susceptible strains. The outcome: improved respiratory conditions, low airway colonization, and no further recolonization after two years of therapy.

Case studyCystic fibrosisPhage Therapy

Repurposing CRISPR systems as antimicrobials is a new strategy being explored, and engineered phages could be a great way to carry them to their targets. Clément Fage (Université Laval, Canada) and colleagues published a new perspective in Current Opinion in Biotechnology on the delivery of CRISPR-Cas systems using phage-based vectors.

CRISPRPhage delivery systemsResearch paper

Julie Stenberg Pedersen (University of Copenhagen, Denmark) and colleagues published a paper on the isolation and characterization of a novel phage Jarilo, which is active against the plant pathogen Pectobacterium carotovorum that causes soft rot disease. Numerous methodologies like bioinformatics and host range analysis confirmed the presence of endonucleases, multiple conserved genes, and Jarilo’s ability to infect across its host species.

Plant pathogensResearch paper

Latest Jobs

Phage TherapyResearch Technician
Vysnova (Silver Spring, MD) is seeking a highly qualified and motivated Research Technician III - Bacteriophage Therapeutics to work on a WRAIR contract.
Assistant Professor
The University of Georgia is hiring an assistant professor of Microbial Systems Biology.

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!

PHAVES #11 will be a casual mixer to kick off the new year! We’ll get together on Zoom January 12 at 11:00 AM Eastern. We’ll start off with a bit of an “open mic” / “show and tell”, where attendees will have the option to share something they’re either proud of from last year or excited to be working on for the coming year. Then we’ll do a few sets of breakout rooms so we can all meet some new faces in smaller-group settings!

Register for this event and/or the whole series at https://phaves.phage.directory.

PHAVESVirtual Event

The Africa Phage Forum is hosting a new phage webinar series, starting Jan. 14 at 11AM EST (4PM GMT) with special guest Dr. Paul Turner. Dr. Turner will give a talk entitled ‘From the environment to bedside: understanding the basics of phage therapy research’. Phage Directory is proud to partner with APF to bring this webinar series to the broader phage community!

Register for this event and/or the whole series at https://apf.phage.directory.

Virtual Event

The fifth iVoM event will be Thursday, January 21, 4pm GMT, and the theme will be “Agro-food, veterinary and environmental biotechnology applications”.

It will feature talks by:
Ana Oliveira
Sam Nugen
Danish Malik

Lone Brøndsted
Mathias Middelboe

Register for this event and/or the whole series at https://ivom.phage.directory.

Virtual EventViruses of microbesiVoM

The TAILOR team at Baylor College of Medicine now has a YouTube channel! Check out their recent one, a recorded talk on AMR and phage therapy by one of TAILOR’s founders, Dr. Anthony Maresso, called Chasing Change: A moving pandemic, an adaptable medicine. Also watch another TAILOR founder, Dr. Sabrina Green, show you how to isolate phages from environmental samples.

AMRPhage TherapyPhage methodsVideo

Phage Futures 2021 will have a young researcher showcase at their event this coming February! If you’re a young researcher attending the conference ($149 for students — register here), don’t forget to apply to present a poster virtually by Jan 22!

Virtual Event

A fresh look at last century’s phages

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Scientific Marketing Manager
Public Health England

Ayuen graduated from the University of Southampton in 2000 with a BSc in Biochemistry. She joined the Public Health Laboratory Service (now Public Health England) in 2001. She has experience of working within the PHE Food, Water and Environmental (FWE) Laboratories and also produced UK Standards for Microbiology Investigations (UK SMIs) clinical microbiology diagnostic SOPs. Since 2016 Ayuen has worked as the Scientific Marketing Manager for PHE’s Culture Collections based at Porton Down and recently completed an MSc in Science Communication and Public Engagement with the University of Edinburgh. Her interests span method development/standardisation and quality assurance, with a focus on scientific communication and public engagement.

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NCTC, Salisbury, UK

Juandem has been with NCTC since 2018 on the microbial projects team working as a molecular microbiologist leading the bacteriophage project. She has a background in biochemistry and biotechnology and besides being a keen phage enthusiast is a busy mum of three.

The National Collection of Type Cultures (NCTC) is one of the world’s oldest bacterial collections that was specifically established to provide strains globally to support scientific research. In addition to the general bacterial catalogue, NCTC has a fully curated bacteriophage collection which has recently been made available to the wider scientific community. The collection consists of over 100 bacteriophages, and their corresponding bacterial hosts, which were originally deposited between 1950 and 1992, primarily for their value in bacterial typing. The collection consists of bacteriophage from the following hosts Streptococcus agalactiaeStaphylococcus aureus and Campylobacter, supplied as freeze dried cultures.

Helping scientists access and preserve phages

The collection has been characterised and reauthenticated using a range of methods including electron microscopy and will be further characterised using genomic sequencing in the future. As the applications of phages for potential solutions to bacterial problems grows, having a repository from which scientists can both source and deposit phages is essential. The collection therefore aims to be dynamic, representing a repository into which microbiologists can deposit phages to support accessibility and reproducibility in science.

A two-year journey to re-characterize old phages: Juandem’s perspective

What a journey it has been with NCTC since June 2018! I have thoroughly enjoyed getting acquainted to the phages within this collection and it feels so good to be able to share this unique resource with the scientific community. When I got this job offer to re-authenticate the bacteriophages in the NCTC collection, I genuinely felt like I would be working in a museum of sorts.

On my first day, I got to see the ampoules and was very excited when I opened my first one a few weeks later. I had my own ideas of what I expected but it was not plain sailing all the way. It took me a good month at least to see my first plaques in the lab! Every phage biologist understands the exhilarating feeling that comes with. The more challenges I found, the more drive I had to keep going. Another high was doing the imaging via electron microscopy. This actually was like meeting your baby for the first time. Even more exciting was the move to launch these phages to the public at Phage Futures Europe in 2019 and establishing some contacts which have ultimately led to our first external deposition which we have only just begun to unfold.

Despite the turbulence this past year, I am even more determined to do more to make this collection as dynamic and open to scientists as possible. I truly believe that the road ahead is full of exciting stops and I cannot wait to see where that will lead me.

phage TEM
Staphylococcus aureus bacteriophage NCTC 8408, imaged by electron microscopy, one of the ways NCTC’s team characterizes its phages. Crown Copyright, Public Health England. View full image

Depositing phages with NCTC

The NCTC bacteriophage collection welcomes new depositions of phages. As with our bacterial strains, we encourage depositions of phages targeting hosts with any clinical or veterinary importance or relevance. To find out more please contact us: [email protected]

Benefits of depositing with NCTC:

  • Contribute to an established repository
  • Deposited phages are authenticated and characterised
  • Phages are preserved indefinitely and made available for future scientific research
  • Ensures availability of dynamic, relevant resource
  • Supports accessibility and reproducibility in science

Are phages sourced from NCTC only available for research purposes or also for therapeutic and/or commercial purposes?

NCTC routinely supplies all our biological reference materials for research purposes only. It may be possible that some products could be considered for commercial purposes, scientists will need to contact NCTC ([email protected]) to ensure that a business agreement is in place prior to use.

Are phages further characterized by NCTC after they’re deposited? Will that data be made accessible?

Some data is supplied to us by the depositor; we then confirm the viability, purity and titre and undertake microscopy. A lyophilised sample is also sent back the to the depositor for confirmatory checks. Electron microscopy gives us an indication of the bacteriophage family, and this data along with the quality control data is available to the depositor as well as those purchasing the bacteriophage. Data is available on the website on the catalogue entry page and each bacteriophage has a Certificate of Analysis. We plan to do more genomic studies in the future and this data will be shared when available. Use of any NCTC strain or bacteriophage or associated data in a publication should be clearly cited and referenced, and information sharing is certainly possible.

Learn more

Thanks to Atif Khan for his work writing summaries for the What’s New section this week!

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