Highlights of the workshop “Phages: what’s new and what’s next?”

Basel was definitely the place to be in the week of 4th-8th March! Not only because it was the stage of the 8th AMR Conference, but also due to quite a few parallel events – like the workshop “Phages: what’s new and what’s next?”, that took over the Innovation Office on the 5th of March.

The event featured an exceptional lineup of speakers who, over the course of almost 5 hours, delved into the different aspects of building a sustainable phage therapy value chain. Together with over 100 attendees, they underscored the advancements, hurdles, and opportunities in the field. At the end, the main message to take home is clear and simple: there is a growing Phage Community very engaged and working hard to make phage therapy a reality to patients in need.


The opening of the workshop


During the course of the event it was pretty clear that phages are on the table. Where to start? Join forces at all levels!

Establishing regular stakeholder meetings is essential to promote collaboration, align progress, and raise awareness. It would be ideal to create a platform for stakeholders from different sectors to exchange insights, address challenges, and collectively push forward the advancement of phage therapy.

On the other hand, embracing a culture of learning from past failures is crucial. By analyzing and understanding them, we can take valuable lessons that will contribute to the creation of a best practice guide for phage clinical trials.

We should bear in mind that collaboration between researchers and clinicians shouldn’t be ignored, as it is fundamental for accelerating progress in phage therapy. Establishing channels for the seamless sharing of tools, resources, and knowledge enhances the collective expertise in the field.

Additionally, it is imperative that different countries work together towards influencing an upcoming legislation, so we can start creating a favorable environment to the development of phage therapy on a global scale.


In between session there was also time for lunch and networking


Three pioneering phage start-ups – RIME, Invitris and OSPT– had also the chance to pitch and showcase the significance of their work. This was a unique opportunity to witness firsthand the innovation and impact these companies are making in the realm of phage therapy.


Overcoming the biggest challenges


Even if really promising, the world of phage therapy is not cleared out of its own complexities. As researchers and clinicians push the boundaries of science, several challenges have emerged across different areas.
When addressing Research and Development (R&D), understanding the intricate dynamics of phage behaviour within the human body it is still challenge. There is also the need to refined predictive models that would enhance our ability to anticipate phage behaviour and optimize treatment protocols.

The absence of standardized reporting mechanisms also holds back the ability to measure and compare the effectiveness of different phage treatments, therefore establishing uniform reporting standards is crucial for advancing Clinical Applications. Faster and more accurate diagnostic methods are essential to streamline treatment processes and improve patient outcomes.


The whiteboard sessions added a truly interactive dimension to the event, providing everyone with the opportunity to speak up and share their knowledge


Furthermore, the absence of clear manufacturing guidelines  of human medicinal products specifically designed for phage therapy makes it hard to maintain consistency and quality in phage production. For that reason, developing standardized guidelines is imperative to ensure the scalability and reliability of phage therapy.

The financial burden of GMP-compliant phage production also inhibits accessibility. It is key to develop strategies aiming reducing production costs while maintaining high standards.

While communication with regulatory bodies is crucial, the lack of clear concepts poses obstacles. There is the urgent need to develop a shared understanding between stakeholders and regulators. In addition, regulatory bodies need incentives to actively participate in the creation of specific frameworks for phage therapy. Encouraging collaboration between researchers, clinicians, and regulatory authorities is decisive for establishing effective guidelines.


The investors panel – from left to right Dr. Thomas Häusler (moderator), Dr. Martin Heidecker, Mark Bamforth, Dr. Neill Gingles and Guillermo Tramontin


As the event concluded, a group of investors took the stage to share their perspectives on investing in phages. We can say they have their eyes on it, and they believe in the potential of phage therapy. They view it as a valuable asset, particularly in addressing highly complex and challenging chronic infections like PJI or CF. However, they underscore the need for additional successful clinical trials. The investors emphasize the importance of partnerships, acknowledging that collaboration is crucial. As they put it, partnerships are essential, as no one can do everything alone and investors can provide valuable resources for success.


A big thank you to all the speakers, start-ups and attendees who made this workshop a success!


At the end of the workshop, everyone agreed that to establish the full potential of phage therapy, these collaborative efforts will serve as the cornerstone for overcoming challenges and paving the way for another alternative in infectious disease treatment. Only working together we can turn the tide against antibiotic resistance and open a way to a future where phage therapy stands as a reality for patients worldwide.


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