UK Establishing Phage Therapy Infrastructure

Issue 209 | February 3, 2023
10 min read
Capsid and Tail

Photo credit: Innovate UK KTN

This week, Dr. Josh Jones from UK Phage Therapy drops an announcement on the establishment of a new UK-based phage therapy screening and manufacturing initiative, which will function as the UK’s national clinical phage centre.

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UK Establishing Phage Therapy Infrastructure

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Clinical Phage Specialist
Clinical Microbiology, NHS Tayside

Bacteriophage (phage) therapy has the potential to transform our approach to treating bacterial infections. We are delighted to announce that key infrastructure is being established for the provision of phage therapy in the UK through a new and exciting collaboration including UK Phage Therapy, technology innovation catalyst CPI, Fixed Phage and the University of Leicester.

A catalyst for this collaboration has been the pioneering work of Dr Josh Jones who has helped pave the way to make phage therapy available to patients in the NHS. As reported in the Mail on Sunday, phage therapy was recently made available to ten patients with diabetes in Edinburgh and Glasgow who were suffering from difficult-to-treat foot infections, with promising results.

Dr Jones, who led that initiative, said, ‘The UK’s current phage source is limited, we need to establish a sustainable source of phages for the UK to maintain and expand phage therapy provision for NHS patients’.

To achieve this goal Dr Jones has established UK Phage Therapy which will be the UK’s national clinical phage centre. UK Phage Therapy will combine a clinical phage screening service with access to medical-grade phages (manufactured according to Good Manufacturing Practice [GMP]) to deliver sustainable phage therapy for the NHS. This will be underpinned by support from companies (CPI and Fixed Phage) and academic partners (The Centre for Phage Research at the University of Leicester).

CPI is a social enterprise that catalyses the adoption of advanced technologies and manufacturing solutions that benefit people, places, and our planet. CPI hopes to play a key role in developing GMP phage manufacturing, working with UK Phage Therapy and Fixed Phage to manufacture phages. Dr Clare Trippett, Chief Technologist at CPI, said, ‘Phage therapy is emerging as a powerful tool in the fight against antimicrobial resistance and treating bacterial infections. CPI is delighted to be collaborating with UK Phage Therapy and Fixed Phage on accelerating the translation of bacteriophage research into the clinic, enabling patients to access potentially life-saving phage therapies.’

One of the UK’s leading phage companies, Fixed Phage, will form a key part of the collaboration, providing business and commercial support, as well as phage-specific expertise in GMP process development and manufacture. Fixed Phage are developing commercial phage products using their patented phage-stabilising technology which allows phage products to be stored and distributed at room temperature, removing the need for a cold chain. Dr Jason Clark, Chief Scientific Officer at Fixed Phage, said, ‘We have been collaborating with Dr Jones for several years and are delighted that his diligent approach to deploying phage therapy is achieving demonstratable benefits to patient health in the UK. We are excited to be a member of a consortium that brings together commercial, academic and public sector partners to deliver solutions to one of the most urgent health challenges of our time.’

A key part of the consortium’s ability to sustainably deliver phages stems from collaboration with the University of Leicester’s recently established Centre for Phage Research, which has amassed, sequenced and studied large collections of phages that target clinically relevant pathogens. The Centre for Phage Research will supply well characterised phages that can then be produced for use in UK patients. Work within the Centre for Phage Research is developing a fundamental knowledge of these phages and their interactions with bacteria within relevant disease contexts. The Centre for Phage Research has five phage-focussed academic staff members alongside structural biologists, biochemists, bioinformaticians, microbiologists and medical practitioners who work synergistically to determine how phages interact with relevant microbes. Prof. Martha Clokie, University of Leicester, said, ‘We are enormously pleased by the support from the University of Leicester to build on our decades of expertise to establish a Phage Centre which we hope will act as a critical mass of expertise and biological resources to work across the UK to develop phage therapy for humans and other applications in a sustainable way. We hope that our combined expertise will lead to the most effective and best understood phages being developed to target diseases. We are thrilled to collaborate with Dr Jones and the rest of this consortium as we can combine expertise to progress phage therapy within a UK context.’

Dr Fran Hodges, who is leading the recently launched Phage Innovation Network at Innovate UK KTN, commented ‘The UK has a world-leading knowledge base for phage research with significant and broad experience across multiple sectors, but there is little translation of this knowledge into the development of real-world applications of phages. The phage source and GMP manufacturing capabilities for phage-based products established through this collaboration are key to bridging this translational gap and crucial to making phage therapy accessible to patients in need of an antimicrobial therapy that could save their life. The activities of the Phage Innovation Network will aim to amplify the impact of this collaboration - it’s an exciting time for phage in the UK’.

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