The central objective of ImmunoPhage is to achieve a generalizable, sustainable, and tailored approach for the treatment of recurrent urinary tract infections by simultaneously killing the bacteria and modulating the antibacterial immune response.
Recurrent bacterial infections remain one of the most challenging health issues and impose a tremendous burden on our health care system. The current approach to treat such infections consists of administration of antibiotics. However, this practice can both contribute to the development of antibiotic resistance and aggravate host inflammation. In this interdisciplinary and interinstitutional Flagship project, the researchers propose to fundamentally change the approach of how bacterial infections are treated. The aim is to engineer bacteriophages (briefly, phages) to exert immunomodulatory effects that improve antimicrobial immunity and complement their direct antimicrobial activity. This novel therapeutic approach, termed immunophage therapy, shall be tested in one of the most common afflictions to human health, namely, recurrent urinary tract infections (rUTIs). The ImmunoPhage project will simultaneously address the worldwide threat of antibiotic resistance, develop a platform for novel personalized medicine, and synergize front-line expertise in the areas of bio-engineering, immunology, and translational and clinical medicine.
By targeting rUTI as a proof-of-concept, these results may propel the development of immunophage therapeutics to address other bacterial infections, chronic inflammation in immune-mediated pathologies (such as autoimmune diseases at barrier organs), and pathogen- and inflammation-driven malignancies (including urological and gynecological cancers).
The research activity of the ImmunoPhage Consortium is grouped into three strongly interacting work packages (WPs):
- Generation of therapeutic phages and payload engineering (WP A)
- Immune response to rUTIs and to the immunophage therapy (WP B)
- Clinical implementation of the immunophage therapy (WP C)
The WPs build a holistic model that will be developed as an iterative process from bench to bedside and back to enable a continuous improvement of the therapeutic immunophages. Furthermore, these efforts to optimize clinical management aim to both positively impact patient health and potentially reduce overall healthcare cost expenditures associated with chronic disease.