Patients suffering from hard-to-treat bacterial infections across NSW will soon have better access to limb and life-saving therapy known as phage therapy.
Minister for Medical Research David Harris today announced the NSW Government will invest $3.5 million over the next two years to urgently address an ongoing global manufacturing bottleneck in delivering phage therapy.
Bacteriophages or ‘phages’ are viruses that selectively infect bacteria and can kill them. With increasing concern of antibiotic-resistant bacteria worldwide, phage therapy research is taking place as an alternative or addition to traditional antibiotics.
Mr Harris said the NSW Government investment will increase phage therapy access for patients with serious bacterial infections, such as antimicrobial resistance (AMR), sepsis and prosthetic infections.
“NSW is a world leader in the development of phage therapy, however, we know there is a global manufacturing bottleneck due to the very few facilities worldwide that can manufacture high-quality phage products. This is severely limiting supply which impacts the delivery of this treatment.” Mr Harris said.
“This significant investment will allow NSW experts to increase manufacturing capabilities right here in NSW via the Westmead Institute for Medical Research (WIMR) and bypass the international issues that are slowing down access.
“This is a win for patients and a boost for our local clinical research bodies.”
NSW Health Minister Ryan Park said the investment will help drive innovation in the development of phage therapies.
“Phage therapies are an exciting field of medicine and could be the answer to the rapidly growing problem of antibiotic-resistant infectious diseases,” Mr Park said.
“We know that antibiotic resistance is one of the biggest threats facing global health systems and can lead to longer hospital stays, higher medical costs and increased mortality.”
Director of the Centre for Infectious Disease and Microbiology at WIMR and Founder of Phage Australia, Professor Jon Iredell, welcomed the announcement.
"Phage Australia opened a new clinical trial last year to treat patients around Australia and we are thrilled to have treated 30 patients so far. However, we have had to restrict the size of the trial due to limited access to high-quality phage preparations,” Prof. Iredell said.
“These funds will increase local manufacturing capability at the Westmead Institute for Medical Research, which until now has only been able to treat one patient per month.
“This means we can double current capacity and begin to address the growing demand from around Australia and from overseas, for NSW-manufactured phage therapies.”
Mr Harris announced the funding at a meeting with visiting international Professors interested in the research on phage therapy being undertaken by Phage Australia.
Hosted by senior executives within the NSW Health Division of Clinical Innovation and Research, the meeting showcased the work of Phage Australia and included discussions about how best to collaborate and innovate in the global fight against antimicrobial resistance.
Phage Australia are world leaders in the development and manufacture of phage therapy. It is a national consortium and key NSW members include Western Sydney Local Health District, Sydney Children’s Hospitals Network and the University of Sydney. So far, patients have been treated in NSW at hospitals including within Western Sydney Local Health District and Sydney Children’s Hospitals Network.