What’s new on microbial viruses? A chronicle from Viruses of Microbes, 2022 meeting

What’s new on microbial viruses? A chronicle from Viruses of Microbes, 2022 meeting

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From 18to 22 July, the Viruses of Microbes 2022 meeting took place in the beautiful city of Guimarães (Portugal). The conference gathers experts from all around the world to discuss the latest advances in the ecology and evolution of microbial viruses, virus structures and function, virus-host interaction, agro-food, veterinary and environmental biotechnology applications, and phage therapy. And Telum Therapeutics could not miss it.

«We have been delighted to contribute to fruitful discussions about microbes and viruses that infect them, such as phages, with more than 700 colleagues to further advance in their clinical application», state Chad Euler and Roberto Díez, CSO and CEO, respectively, of Telum Therapeutics. «In addition to attending, this year we have contributed as gold sponsors to the conference, which is the largest and most prestigious internationally in the field of virology».

The conference couldn’t have started better, with a fantastic dance and comedy performance that gave way to the opening session “Bird’s eye view”, in which we learned that there are about 10^31 phages in the oceans (can you guess how much remains to be discovered there?) and the importance to share phage collections to advance the field further.

The second day focused on the ecology and evolution of microbial viruses, virus structure and function, agro-food, veterinary and environmental biotechnology applications, and biotechnology applications in health care. Of particular interest to us were the talks given by Frank Oechslin on the Implications of endolysin diversity on phage-host adaptation and evolution, Christian Röhrig on Chimeric endolysins selectively kill S. aureus in vitro, on reconstituted human epidermis, and on murine skin, Anja Keller on Engineering of endolysins for the targeted treatment of localized Staphylococcus aureus infections, and Roberto Vázquez on new phage-based antimicrobials: the case of AMP-like regions in Gram-negative phage endolysins. Not forgetting the amazing session by Yves Briers “Phages playing molecular Lego”, which explored the possibility of exploiting the natural modularity of lysines by combining the different building blocks to obtain new antimicrobial compounds. Something that, by the way, we do very well at Telum Therapeutics.

The welcome of the third day was marked by the latest discoveries about how bacteria defend themselves against phages and the mechanisms that phages use to circumvent these defenses and barriers to infect the cells. And after listening to all the experts, two things have become clear to us: understanding bacterial defense systems can teach us what happens in eukaryotes because of the similarities between the two immune systems and the future in this field looks exciting.

The fourth day resumed some topics discussed in the previous days, like the agro-food, veterinary and environmental biotechnology application of phages, but also introduced insights on newly discovered bacteriophage infection mechanisms. But it was the last talk of the day that captured our attention. Ana Gouveia introduced the unraveling bacterial determinants of tolerance to endolysin lytic action, a line of research that we will follow very closely.

And as all good things must come to an end, we reached the fifth day, which concluded the conference in the best possible way: with a round table about phage therapy. Paul Pirnay explained the experience of phage therapy in Belgium, with 100 cases that showed more than 70% clinical improvement. Ran Nir-Paz, Martha Clokie and Sofia Corte-Real also participated in the round table that focused on personalized phage therapy, good manufacturing practices in phage production, standard setting for clinical treatment, stablishing guidelines for phage banks, starting a clinical phage therapy hub, and public awareness.

The meeting wrapped up with the session “New horizons, new conquests!” and by honoring Betty Kutter, considered the First Lady of phage research, for her outstanding career. Hope to see you all in Tbilisi, Georgia, next year!

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