Phage Innovation Network delivers significant impact

Innovate UK has welcomed the House of Commons Science, Innovation and Technology Committee’s recent report on the findings of its inquiry into the antimicrobial potential of phages.

Posted on: 01/02/2024
Lab worker with petri dish and protective mask

Innovate UK contributed to the inquiry by providing written and oral evidence on behalf of UKRI, which included details of the work being carried out by the Innovate UK Phage Innovation Network (Phage IN).

It was particularly encouraging to see recognition of the Phage IN’s role in providing a forum that is already delivering significant impact as a focal point for government organisations, key stakeholders, and the phage community to connect, discuss and progress the phage sector. The Phage IN is ensuring the UK maintains its strong stance on tackling antimicrobial resistance (AMR) and furthering phage R&D across multiple sectors in the UK.

The Phage IN was launched in February 2023 and has been focused on its key aims to understand emerging innovations that use phages, to improve awareness and drive engagement in the development of phage-based technologies, and also to change perceptions of anti-infectives, redefining them as infrastructure necessary for global health and economic security.

It is encouraging to see the work of the Phage IN being recognised and I look forward to working with the Department for Health and Social Care and others to progress the report’s recommendations.

Dr Francesca Hodges, Phage IN Lead and Knowledge Transfer Manager ‑ Emerging and Enabling Technologies, Innovate UK KTN

Throughout the first year of activity, the network has worked with the UK phage community to gather insights on the strengths and weaknesses in phage research in the UK and key actions needed to support development in this area.

It hosted the Phage Innovation Showcase, in collaboration with the Food Safety Research Network and Leicester Centre for Phage Research. The event highlighted translational research in the development of phage-based technologies (PBT) in the UK to over 200 members of the phage community. Attendees also explored common challenges present across sectors in the development and implementation of PBTs and discussed how their community can work together to realise the full potential of PBTs.

The report recommended that the Department for Health and Social Care should set out how it will help develop a network for phage-related knowledge sharing and assets such as biobanks. The Phage IN is facilitating the delivery of a global biobanking project in collaboration with Phages for Global Health with the long-term goal of streamlining the process for sharing phages across international borders.

The aim is to expedite phage transfer in emergency situations when they may be needed to treat antibiotic-resistant infections. Through this collaborative project the network has brought together more than 100 phage experts from 28 countries who are working on drafting guidelines for managing phage collections around the world.

Another report recommendation was for the Medicines & Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) to provide guidance on the quality, safety, and efficacy requirements for regulatory evaluation, and for clarity over the regulatory frameworks. Over the past few months, the Phage IN has been working with the MHRA to facilitate knowledge exchange between innovators and regulators to support the development of MHRA non-mandatory guidance for phage-based medicinal products. These guidelines are expected to be shared for public consultation later this year.

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Francesca Hodges

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