The future is phage?

Roshan Nepal is a Research Associate at the Center for Molecular Dynamics Nepal, primarily working on PREDICT project – part of USAID’s Emerging Pandemic Threats (EPT) program. He went to a meeting in Poland to become acquainted with the latest phage research. 

EMBO Workshop Viruses of Microbes V: Biodiversity and Future Applications – also called EMBO Workshop on Viruses of the Microbes 2018 (VoM2018) – was held from July 9-13, 2018 at Wroclaw – a historic city of Poland – at University of Wroclaw.

Around 500 researchers from around the world, who’re currently working with ‘bacteriophage/phage’ were at this event. Prominent scientists from the field, such as Elizabeth KutterRob Lavigne, Ramy K. Aziz, and Stephen Abedon were in attendance.

Fighting AMR

As antimicrobial resistance continues to be a major risk, with no significant alternatives in sight, the symposium aimed to bring together scientists working on this vintage approach called ‘phage therapy’ where ‘natural phage’ kill drug-resistant bacteria.

As the meeting completely aligned with my core research, I attended the symposium as a poster presenter and took part in a pre-conference workshop where different tools to analyze phage genomes were discussed. My poster was entitled “Phages: Nature’s Alternative to Antimicrobial Resistance Crisis”.

Genome wisdom

My participation in the event was primarily supported by a ‘President’s Fund’ grant from Society for Applied Microbiology (SfAM) and ‘EMBO Accommodation Grant for Young Researchers’.

The workshop introduced me to various tools (PHASTER, RAST) for phage genome analysis. Immediately after returning from the symposium, I was able to analyze genome of 3 phages (with complete annotation) which have been submitted to GenBank for publication.

The workshop also honed my skills on phage bioinformatics like genome mining, genome annotation, GenBank submission, NCBI archiving/search and genome publication.

Looking to the future

The experience gave me an opportunity to collaborate with like-minded researchers. With knowledge and skills gained at the event, our team is now ready for at least three publications (completely annotated genome announcements) and also completion of an original research article.

Hopefully, we’ll achieve our goals soon. Additionally, the workshop and conference were helpful in research design and areas where resource-limited labs can work on phage biology. As a result, we have re-oriented our research strategy/areas and very soon (within 2 months) one of my students will be completing her dissertation.

So, my participation has not only helped me gain skills and information, but also helped me import skills that will benefit students at the university.

Passing it on

This definitely broadened my understanding of various research areas on phage biology and phage engineering. As a phage researcher and thesis co-supervisor, I’m now able to work more efficiently and also connected with mentors willing to assist (Abedon, Rob) in research as well as publication.


Roshan Nepal