Tackling bacterial diseases in agriculture and beyond

The current mainstream solution to tackle bacterial diseases - antibiotics - is becoming increasingly ineffective and forbidden from usage outside of clinical settings. Moreover, antibiotics eliminate most bacteria, including the beneficial ones, thus severely damaging fragile ecosystems and causing long-term health consequences. That’s where the Uniphage team come in. They’re hoping their innovative STEM business concept will create platform technology to cure bacterial diseases in agriculture and beyond.

Their project uses phages, which are viruses that naturally kill bacteria. They are also one of the most promising alternatives to antibiotics. Phages are already successfully used for a small number of commercial non-human health applications, such as plant disease control and food preservation. However, few commercial phage applications exist because the current method to select suitable ones is very manual, time-consuming and ineffective.

The team aim to revolutionise the phage selection and production process which is key to bringing more bacteriophage-based solutions to the market.

Two globe-trotting students have combined their skills in biology and data science to find a solution to citrus greening disease across the United States. They have already developed the most efficient deep learning models to date to computationally predict which phages can kill target bacterial pathogens.

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Chris Lis from the Uniphage team said: “From a data scientist point of view, hard data is everything. It helps us identify how and why problems are happening. The only way we will know we are solving these world problems is through the rigour you find in STEM. With the achievements in STEM in the past decades, we can move faster than ever before. It’s all about combining humans with STEM to solve world problems.”

UN Sustainable Development Goals

2 - Zero Hunger
3 - Good Health and wellbeing
15 - Life on Land