Agriphage is a business launched through Biofoundry in 2019. The team successfully applied for Cicada Innovations’ GrowLab and received $30,000 seed investment. The goal of Agriphage is to find a long-term solution to the antibiotic resistance crisis that humanity is currently facing.
More than half of global antibiotic consumption is in the agricultural industry. No industry is free from guilt; while you might typically associate antibiotics with meat and poultry, they’re also used in cropping and aquaculture. In the global context, Australia is a relatively good custodian of antimicrobial resistance – but that will not protect us from the evolution of superbugs.
Some reasons why the agricultural industry is the perfect place to prototype novel methods for fighting bacterial infections;
- Field trials are significantly cheaper than clinical trials. No human lives are put at risk by testing novel techniques.
- More incidences of bacteria encountering antibiotics – each time this occurs, there is a chance for selecting for resistance.
- There is significant demand for a bactericide that doesn’t induce resistance – studies show that repressing bacterial growth improves yield from the host.
So what are Bacteriophages?
Bacteriophages are naturally occurring viruses that live in, on and around us without ever really interacting with our bodies. This is because they are instead locked in a 3 billion year old arms race against bacteria; their host, and prime method of reproduction.
Like the viruses that prey upon our cells, bacteriophages lack the essential replication machinery that is needed to produce offspring. So instead, they inject their DNA/RNA into bacteria and hijack what they need, replicating themselves until the cell literally bursts from the inside. Nature is Gnarly.
The above article is not written about us – but it very well could be. The new synthetic biology approach of Design>Build>Test>Learn has propelled phage research forwards in recent years – building upon the 70 years of documented implementation in the Soviet Union.
Agriphage has tacit approval to receive a library containing 50+ strains of a pathogen that causes a significant economic burden on Australia’s pork industry. Agriphage also has partners in the pork industry that allow the team to collect water and faecal samples from sites around NSW. The team was awarded the first portion of the NSW MVP grant to try use these resources to create the first iteration of our phage discovery pipeline.
However these resources are not quite enough for us to pull the trigger and launch this project. The infectious nature of our chosen pathogen will absolutely require a PC2+ workspace, which Biofoundry is not. Additionally, while we have the funds to pay for consumables – all research hours are currently provided on a volunteer or equity basis. Waiting for the investment funds of a Pre-Seed round would allow us to attract the best talent for this project.
While we hunt down investors for a Pre-Seed round, we’re hard at work developing the protocols necessary to apply the Design>Build>Test>Learn philosophy of synthetic biology to the phage discovery process.
Since these protocols are generally applicable to all phages and bacteria, we can perform these necessary early steps within BioFoundry. It is not until we wish to work with our pathogenic bacteria of interest that we will need to move to a new space.
If you’d like to learn more about AgriPhage’s mission to beat superbugs for good, contact Alex using the following form: