PhageLab's AI-Powered Biotech Platform: Solving The Global Bacterial Threat


Overuse of antibiotics for both humans and animals around the world has led to a growing crisis in the form of multidrug-resistant bacteria, or so-called “superbugs.” For decades, antibiotics have been the go-to treatment for many types of infections, but they are losing their efficacy as bacteria continually evolve the ability to withstand them. This vexing trend holds especially true in the livestock industry, where large quantities of antibiotics have been widely used to prevent bacterial infections among densely contained farm animals. 

Meanwhile, the planet’s arable land for food production per capita has been steadily decreasing. As the demand for meat production increases worldwide, the need to protect closely contained livestock from bacterial outbreaks becomes even more critical. Consequently, the global antibiotic market for animal use in terms of revenue was estimated at $4.7 billion in 2021, with a 3.5% compound annual growth rate CAGR forecast from 2021 to 2026, according to the research firm MarketsandMarkets.  

Today, an especially innovative developer of highly effective alternatives to antibiotics, a venture-capital-backed company called PhageLab, offers livestock producers a new way to defend against bacterial outbreaks. Phages, which underlie PhageLab’s technological breakthroughs, were initially discovered in 1915, prior to antibiotics. (The first antibiotic, penicillin, was discovered in 1928.) They are naturally occurring viruses that attack and destroy bacteria. In fact, for every harmful bacteria on the planet, there exists a natural phage that will kill it -- a phenomenon that helps keep the global microbiome in a sustainable balance.

Antibiotics eventually became the preferred treatment over phages for bacterial infections during the last century because they are more effective against a broader range of targets. Identifying the precise strains of bacteria that are infecting an animal or human and the exact combination of phages needed to stop an infection, until now, has taken too long, with the disease state likely worsening in the meantime. Closing this time-delay gap is precisely where PhageLab’s technology proves to be a complete game changer.

Phagelab possesses an AI-powered biotech platform looking to solve the global bacterial threat. Their technology, known as LEIDEN, is a deep epidemiological analysis algorithm, it works based on unique sources of data from huge industrial bacteria repositories and their own repository of Phages. This application allows rapidly accelerate of the identification of bacterial infections and the sequencing of phages to match target bacteria.

The company is currently working with large producers in the poultry, swine, and livestock industries around the world. Their tailor-made solutions are a fundamental part of their service. Its treatment delivery methods adapt flexibly to existing farm processes, controlling bacterial populations of different complexities. With PhageLab’s system, there’s no disturbance to normal livestock-farming operations. 

Hans Pieringer, the founder and CEO of PhageLab, is a former professor at the Universidad Andrés Bello in Santiago, Chile. He and his team began the development of the company’s core technology ten years ago, which has since been patented. "Respecting the biology of the challenge is at the core of our philosophy. We understand that bacteria is a dynamic challenge, constantly evolving with new strains emerging. Relying on a fixed treatment to solve the problem is simply outdated thinking. We must embrace a more innovative mindset.” Says Pieringer. “At our company, we've worked tirelessly to create a platform driven by data, because that's the key to effective phage-based treatments. Our platform allows us to finely tune and adapt the use of phages, optimizing their potential for every scenario. It's through this dedication to data-driven approaches that we are able to revolutionize the field and make a lasting impact in fighting global bacterial infections." 

When a pathogenic bacterium comes near a host, phages recognize membrane-specific proteins and anchor themselves to the bacteria, then inject their genetic material and begin multiplying. Once replicated, the phages secrete enzymes that destabilize the bacterial membrane, causing it to rupture and releasing multiple copies of phages, which are then ready to attack other pathogens and repeat the process as necessary.

PhageLab, which is based in Santiago and backed by Kaszek Ventures, Humboldt Fund, and Pablo Valenzuela, discoverer of the Hepatitis C virus and creator of the Hepatitis B vaccine, now has offices in Chile, Brazil and Spain. The company’s team includes experts in animal health from the fields of microbiology, biotechnology, bioprocesses, veterinary medicine, chemistry and pharmacy.  

The global increase in livestock production, coupled with the rise in demand for safe food, is driving demand for antibacterials in the feed industry. Europe is one of the largest markets, holding a major share of total revenue, but the demand is projected to rise in the Asia Pacific region -- particularly in China, India, and Japan, according to the research firm Mordor Intelligence

Countries in the Asia-Pacific region recently have observed an increase in the consumption of antibacterials due in part to increasing awareness among farmers about the negative effects of bacterial infections on production. Meanwhile, PhageLab’s innovative technology is expected to be an increasingly fundamental alternative to antibiotics globally for the treatment of bacterial infections in livestock and -- in the future -- human treatments.

Image sourced from Shutterstock

This post was authored by an external contributor and does not represent Benzinga's opinions and has not been edited for content. The information contained above is provided for informational and educational purposes only, and nothing contained herein should be construed as investment advice. Benzinga does not make any recommendation to buy or sell any security or any representation about the financial condition of any company.

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