Last week Senator Jaques Wagner and Dr. Roberto Badaro from Brazil visited us to see “in action” our research and efforts to bring phage therapy to market. Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is a major public health threat of global proportions, which has the potential to lead to million of deaths every year. In 2017, Brazil joined the Global Antimicrobial Resistance Surveillance System (GLASS) and in 2018, started its own national antimicrobial surveillance program (BR-GLASS) to understand the impact of resistance in their country. Brazil also formalized a National Action Plan for the Prevention and Control of Antimicrobial Resistance in the Scope of One Health (PAN-BR). The formulation of the PAN-BR recognized the need for a multidisciplinary and multi-sectoral approach to AMR. The evident limitation in traditional therapeutic options, alternatives to combat bacterial infections are being sought. One of these is “of course” phage therapy. Although, few phage studies have been reported in Brazil, research in this field is currently under development in the country being led by Dr. Badaro.
Jaques Wagner, a former defense minister and Brazil's presidential chief of staff, and current senator of Bahia state visited UCSD’s IPATH and our lab at SDSU was to learn more about the progress we are making with phage therapy. Wagner's goal is to fight for legislation that will bring phage therapy to Brazilians. Dr. Badaro MD/PHD is the chair of the Department of Medicine at the Universidade Federal da Bahia in Salvador (UFBA). Dr. Badaro aims to follow the footsteps of IPATH directors Drs. Robert Schooley and Steffanie Strathdee and initiate a phage therapy center in Bahia.
Dwayne shared our development of phage therapies, in particular our progress on improving phage biomanufacturing processes, both at laboratory and commercial scales. Senator Wagner and Drs. Badaro and Schooley (UCSD) got a sneak peek at our advancements of upstream bioreactors’ operation modes as well as downstream novel purification approaches. “Phage therapeutics that do not exist are of no value and phages that are not affordable are of little value.” Thus, we are moving away from ultrafiltration by TFF in an attempt to increase productivity and making phages affordable for global health equity.
Dr. Badaro asked questions about the experiences being a part of a translational research as students. Personally, I find our involvement in ‘compassionate use’ (emergency investigational new drug; eIND) cases to be both intimidating and exciting. Intimidating because as graduate students in a research group, it isn’t expected that we have the opportunity to be involved in immediate clinical cases with a patient’s life on the line. Exciting because we have the opportunity to have an up-close role in translational research, something I never thought would happen as a trainee. Our resident postdoc Dr. Wai Hoe Chin, who has recently started working on eIND cases, also feels enthusiastic and hopeful for phage therapy to be more embraced and increasingly accessible as we improve upon our application of phages through eIND cases. "I never thought I'd be doing this as a Masters student! These experiences have been an rewarding challenge." - Andrew, now working with our collaborators on novel phage-based technologies.
That afternoon, Senator Wagner gave a talk about the current state of Brazil, US-Brazil relations, and his goals and findings from this visit. You can find it here. In closing, Wagner spoke about Brazil’s extensive public health system, the Sistema Único de Saúde (SUS). With nearly 100% of the Brazilian population covered, the SUS is the largest government-run public healthcare system in the world. Extensive access to health care (>50,000 clinics) and a rich research network supports the current SUS. With the goal of improving public health even further under the Lula Administration, Senator Wagner’s visit to UCSD and SDSU will hopefully be inspirational to advance phage therapies in Brazil.
We would like to take this opportunity to thank Senator Wagner and Dr. Badaro for visiting us here at SDSU. We wish them the best in their future endeavors.