August 20, 2019
Associate Professor Ruby Lin from The Westmead Institute for Medical Research (WIMR) has received a research grant from BGI Australia.
The grant will support the sequencing needs of a bacteriophage biobank, which will aid research into a potential treatment for antibiotic resistant infections, a growing threat to global health.
Associate Professor Lin is part of WIMR’s Critical Infection group led by Professor Jon Iredell, who are investigating the safety and effectiveness of bacteriophage (phage) – viruses that naturally attack bacteria – as a method of treating infections that do not respond to antibiotics.
Associate Professor Lin said, “Phage therapy has been around for decades. However, it has fallen out of use, particularly in the Western world, due to the widespread use of antibiotics.
“Now that our antibiotics are no longer as effective as they once were, we are re-examining phage therapy as a viable treatment.
“So far, we have found that phage therapy is safe and tolerable in patients – phage only kill bacteria, and don’t harm surrounding human cells.
“However, we need more evidence, particularly from randomised controlled clinical trials, before the treatment can be approved and offered in a healthcare setting.
“A biobank could offer significant benefit. It would give researchers from across New South Wales access to a broad range of high-quality phage samples, enabling research to progress and the body of evidence in support of phage therapy to develop.”
Associate Professor Lin was one of just three grant recipients out of a competitive pool of more than 70 applicants.
She said she was grateful to have the opportunity to progress phage research in Australia.
“Phage therapy is an exciting prospect, and certainly worth the investment. The phage biobank program will be the first of its kind in Australia.
“Eventually, we hope that the biobank will lead to the development of ‘personalised’ phage therapy, where a specific species of phage is selected based on an individual’s infection.
“I’m very excited to be leading this program, and this research grant will help myself, and my team, get the program started.
“I know my team are just as pleased as I have to have received this funding.”
Associate Professor Ruby Lin is affiliated with The Westmead Institute for Medical Research and the University of Sydney. The core team for human phage therapy include: Professor Jon Iredell (principal investigator), Associate Professor Ruby Lin (project manager and scientific lead), Dr Aleksandra Petrovic Fabijan (phage biologist), Ms Josephine Ho, Dr Susan Maddocks, Dr Ali Khalid, Dr Nouri Ben Zakour, Dr Indy Sandaradura and Ms Angela Netluch. Phage therapy collective include; Professor Richard Chard, Dr Carola Venturini, Dr Muhammad Kamruzzaman, Dr Alicia Fajardo Lubian and Ms Bethany Bowring.