Bacteriophage Applications - current and potential applications in biotechnology, agriculture and medicine

Tuesday, 16 May 2006

Bacteriophage Applications - current and potential applications in biotechnology, agriculture and medicine
Tuesday, 16 May 2006 09:15 - 17:00

Birkbeck College
Basement Lecture Theatre
43 Gordon Square
United Kingdom

Map and Directions


"Bacteriophages are arguably the most abundant biological entities on the planet and they play profound roles in driving the adaptive evolution of their hosts, the bacteria. The meeting will cover various aspects of bacteriophage biology, including the nature of bacteriophages; their evolution and role in moving adaptive fitness genes between bacteria (for example in the generation of pathogenicity islands). The current and potential applications of phages in biotechnology, agriculture and medicine (including the prospects for “phage therapy”) will be discussed." - Professor George Salmond Cambridge University- the Meeting's Chair 

Morning Session


09:00 – 09:30              Registration – tea/coffee and biscuits


09:30 – 09:40              Introduction by the Chair – Professor George Salmond, Cambridge University

09:40 – 10:00              The nature and uses of phage in fundamental biology research, biotechnology and medicine Professor George Salmond - Cambridge University

This talk will set the background for the meeting and will provide a general introduction to the nature, abundance and diversity of phages. The talk will discuss the importance of phages as drivers of host adaptive evolution and will outline the historical role that phages have played in enabling our understanding of fundamental biological processes. The exploitation of phages for genetic analysis of their bacterial hosts, for biotechnology, for diagnostics, and for medical applications (including phage therapy) will be introduced to set the scene for the following talks at the meeting.

10:00 – 10:30              Bacteriophage genomes, pathogenicity islands, phage conversion and evolution
Dr Nicholas Thomson, Sanger Institute, Cambridge.
Whole genome sequencing has brought phage biology back into the limelight and provided us with an unprecedented insight into the genomic architecture and evolution of bacterial pathogens. Bacterial genomes are ‘peppered’ with prophage or phage-like elements which not only contribute to the overall sequence diversity, but also have a significant influence on the pathogenic potential of the host bacterium. Perhaps the most important observation made from genome sequencing is not the mere presence of phage but the number and diversity of phage that have been discovered. Even though we are still only scratching the surface it is clear that phage biology is once again recognised as being fundamental to our understanding of long and short term bacterial evolution.  An overview of the contribution of phage to pathogenomics will be presented.

10:30 – 11:00             The Role of STX-Phages In The Survival and Dissemination of Virulence Genes and The Emergence of New Pathogens
Dr Heather  Allison - University of Liverpool
Bacteriophages are more than mere pathogens of their bacterial host.  Temperate phage infections can bring about genotypic and phenotypic changes that often results in a change to the pathogenic profile of the bacterium.  In the case of E. coli strains like O157:H7, phage infection can lead to the emergence of deadly human pathogens.   The Stx-phages responsible for the creation and emergence of this notorious pathogen and others like it belong to a very heterogeneous group.  Research on the mechanisms behind the toxigenic conversion mediated by these phages has revealed many novel aspects of their biology.

11:00 – 11:30              Mid-morning break: tea/coffee

11:30 – 12:00              Phage problems in industrial fermentations: the dairy industry Dr Stephen McGrath, University College, Cork

Phages infecting lactic acid bacteria (LAB) are of considerable economic importance as they are the main cause of fermentation failure in the dairy industry. Significant technological advances in the industry have failed to alleviate this problem and consequently biological research aimed at understanding phage-host interactions as well as phage biology is targeted at providing efficient solutions to the problem of phage infection. To date, a significant body of knowledge has been accumulated on the primary genome structure and organisation of many phages infecting LAB, thus providing insights into their evolutionary history, while at the same time facilitating the development of “intelligent” or engineered phage resistance strategies.

12:00 - 12:30              Phage display for the identification of components of the human proteome Dr Anthony Pope, Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute
The Atlas project uses phage antibody display as part of a multi-disciplinary approach to investigate the human proteome. Proteins / protein domains are cloned, sequenced, expressed and purified using high throughput methodology. Antibodies are then isolated to each of these using phage display. After screening and characterisation the antibodies make ideal tools for the study of the human proteome or mouse model systems. Immunohistochemistry offers the possibility of determining the cellular location and expression profiles of the target proteins. The antibodies can also be used in flow cytometry, Western blots, protein arrays and cell based assays. We aim to make the proteins and antibodies available as a resource for the research community.

12:30 - 13:00             Exploiting phages for production of vaccines Dr John March – Moredun Research Institute
Bacteriophages have a number of potential applications in the biotechnology industry- delivery vehicles for protein and DNA vaccines, for gene therapy, as alternatives to antibiotics, and as protein/antibody library screening tools. This diversity and ease of manipulation and production means they have potential research, therapeutic and manufacturing uses in both the biotechnology and medical fields. It is hoped that the wide range of scientists, clinicians and biotechnologists currently researching or putting bacteriophages to practical use are able to pool their knowledge and expertise and thereby accelerate progress towards further development in this exciting field of biotechnology.

13.00 – 14.00              Lunch in the exhibition hall

Afternoon Session

14:00 – 14:20              Mycobacteriophages: Genomics and Consequences  Professor Graham Hatfull,  Univeristy of Pittsburgh, USA

14:20 – 14:40               Rapid detection and identification of viable Mycobacteria using a combined phage 
PSR assay
Dr Cath Rees, School of Biosciences, University of Nottingham, UK

The FASTPlaqueTB assay is a phage-based diagnostic method for the rapid detection of viable Mycobacterium tuberculosis from human sputum samples.  We have now shown that the same assay reagents can also be used to detect viable Mycobacterium avium subspecies paratuberculosis (MAP) in just 24 h.  In addition we have developed a method for PCR-based molecular identification of the cell detected by the phage assay, providing a rapid and robust test that both indicates cell viability and provides specific identification of a range of Mycobacterial cell types.

14:40 - 15:00              How to develop an effective vaccine against cholera Dr Masahiko Ehara - Institute of Tropical Medicine, Nagasaki University

I have been working on the development of an effective vaccine against cholera. For this purpose, I analyzed the phase variation of Vibrio cholerae O1 to get a fimbriate strain.

In 1992, 13 strains of Vibrio cholerae O139 were sent to me by Dr. John Albert, ICDDR, B to examine the cell surface appendage (fimbeiae, pili).

15:00 - 15:20                Involvement of a phage excisionase into bacterial metabolism regulation Dr Mireille Ansaldi, Laboratoire de Chimie Bactérienne CNRS-Marseille

The TorI protein, encoded by the KplE1 prophage, has been first identified as a response regulator inhibitor. Indeed, TorI prevents the torCAD operon expression, which encodes the main TMAO reductase in E. coli, by interacting with the TorR response regulator. Doing so, TorI prevents the RNA polymerase recruitment to the tor promoter. Recently, using structural and genetic approaches, we showed that TorI is also the excisionase responsible for the KplE1 prophage excision together with the IntS integrase.

15:20  – 15:45             Afternoon Tea/Coffee and cakes in the exhibition hall


15:45 – 16:05             Phage therapy: the Phico Therapeutics technology
Dr Adam Wilkinson,  Phico Therapeutics Ltd , Babraham,

Phico therapeutics develops novel antibacterial therapies targeted at fighting specific bacterial infections.  We use a broad-spectrum toxic protein which binds bacterial DNA and causes loss of viability, targeted to bacteria using specific delivery vectors.

This avoids killing the natural body flora upon treatment, which can lead to the development of other complications.


We are currently entering pre-clinical trials with our first product – SASPject, which targets MRSA.  The technology can be used to fight any bacterial infection, and development of a product for our next target organism – Clostridium difficile - is underway.

16:05 - 16:25               Phage therapy - the Novolytics technology Dr Nick Housby, CEO Novolytics Limited

Novolytics is a new and growing bioscience company and is a spin-out from the University of Warwick.  The company is using its proprietary ABSEPT (antibacterial lysis advance) technology to produce new and effective therapies to successfully counteract the problems of antimicrobial resistance using Phage Therapy approaches

16:25 - 16:55              Immobilised phages as therapeutic agents Dr Mike Mattey , University of Strathclyde

Immobilisation of bacteriophages enhances their stability, particularly to dehydration. This can be exploited in a number of applications both therapeutic and non-clinical. A preliminary report of two animal trials involving
immobilised bacteriophages against MRSA will be presented, one a systemic infection models, the other a wound model and the current status of detection and decontamination projects will also be discussed.

16:55 -17:25               Develpment of Phage Treatmentsof P.aeruginosa Infections Dr James Soothill Great Ormond St Hospital, London

17:30 – 17:35              Chairman’s summing up






Registration fees

  • Standard fee - £400
  • Academic fee - £199
  • Student fee- £140
  • IBMS members fee - £199



Contact Details

Payment Instructions

    • Payment can be made by Visa or Mastercard online by secure server or by post
    • Cheques should be made payable to Euroscicon and mailed (together with a print out of the invoice which will be available at the end of the registration process) to

    Sally Wheatland
    PO Box 49717
    N20 8WH.

    Payment must be received prior to the meeting

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