The Fixed Phage story – From Start-up to Scale-up Part2
What is the innovative technology behind Fixed Phage?
Bacteriophages (also known as phages) are naturally-occurring microbes, first discovered independently by Frederick William Twort in 1915 and Felix d’Herelle in 1917. Whilst completely harmless to humans, animals and plants, bacteriophages target and kill specific bacteria.
Before the Second World War, the use of bacteriophages as therapeutic agents was beginning to become widespread, but, the antibiotic era slowed the uptake of phage therapy. Antibiotics were seen as broad-spectrum treatments, more efficient at controlling bacterial diseases. Antibiotics kill all bacteria without discrimination, and as a result, we have been overusing antibiotics since their discovery, essentially selecting for resistance. Now, many strains of bacteria have become resistant to almost all antibiotics, evolving into super-bugs such as methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA).
As antibiotic resistance has become a significant world health crisis, innovation is urgently sought. Bacteriophages, the most ubiquitous biological agent on the planet, have the potential to become the saviour of human disease and antibiotics. Phages are extremely specific, targeting only a single bacteria, meaning that they have a much lower risk of bacteria developing resistance. Research has even shown that when bacteria become resistant to phages, they then regain some of their sensitivity to antibiotics.
However, liquid phage formulations have their own set of challenges. A significant problem with the application of liquid formulations of phages is that they cannot survive for long periods of time as they are susceptible to environmental challenges, such as drying. As such, liquid (also known as mobilized) phage formulations need to be stored at low temperatures and used within a few weeks. With liquid-based solutions, it is also difficult to ensure the delivery of the phages to the target location, without being able to combine the phages with a solid surface to aid the application.
What makes Fixed Phage unique?
This is where the Fixed Phage technology comes into play. Fixed Phage uses bacteriophages to specifically target undesirable bacteria. However, Fixed Phage has developed technology to irreversibly bind the phages to a solid surface, enhancing their delivery to the desired location and formulating robust solutions for varying application environments.
Fixed Phage uses corona discharge to enhance the wettability of the substrate surface onto which the bacteriophages are applied. The phages are then irreversibly and covalently bound to the surface. Using plasma-based immobilization is cheaper, quicker and more environmentally friendly than chemical immobilization techniques.
These immobilized phage formulations are what make Fixed Phage unique. The bacteriophages can be dried without impacting their anti-bacterial activity, and the formulations are stable in commercially relevant environments. The phages can be applied onto sub-micron beads, flat substrates or even powders, making them easy to deliver to whatever location is desired for the chosen application.
What is the future for Fixed Phage?
The trajectory of Fixed Phage has changed and developed over the years. Since its inception, the government and commercial interest in bacteriophages has increased, mainly as the public has gained more awareness of the dangers of antibiotic resistance and the need for alternative solutions.
As naturally-occurring products, bacteriophages themselves cannot be patented. Fixed Phage, however, has a generic patent for its immobilization technology, as well as a significant patent portfolio that covers the many specific areas in which they are working.
The range of application areas for bacteriophages is diverse. Currently, Fixed Phage has a focus on animal health, crop health, personal and human health, and food safety. In the future, Fixed Phage hopes to branch out into many more application areas, for example, wound dressing. Fixed Phage has previously come close to working with major plaster manufacturers to incorporate phages into their products. However, the gamma radiation used to sterilize the plasters would not have been suitable for the phages. In the future, further research and development could make this a reality.
The therapeutic potential of bacteriophages, combined with the innovative Fixed Phage immobilization technology, promises an exciting future for the role of phages in our everyday lives.
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