Enhancing phage therapy through synthetic biology and genome engineering

Curr Opin Biotechnol. 2021 Apr;68:151-159. doi: 10.1016/j.copbio.2020.11.003. Epub 2020 Dec 10.


The antimicrobial and therapeutic efficacy of bacteriophages is currently limited, mostly due to rapid emergence of phage-resistance and the inability of most phage isolates to bind and infect a broad range of clinical strains. Here, we discuss how phage therapy can be improved through recent advances in genetic engineering. First, we outline how receptor-binding proteins and their relevant structural domains are engineered to redirect phage specificity and to avoid resistance. Next, we summarize how phages are reprogrammed as prokaryotic gene therapy vectors that deliver antimicrobial 'payload' proteins, such as sequence-specific nucleases, to target defined cells within complex microbiomes. Finally, we delineate big data- and novel artificial intelligence-driven approaches that may guide the design of improved synthetic phage in the future.

Trial registration: ClinicalTrials.gov NCT03808103 NCT04191148.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Artificial Intelligence
  • Bacteriophages* / genetics
  • Genetic Engineering
  • Phage Therapy*
  • Synthetic Biology

Associated data

  • ClinicalTrials.gov/NCT03808103
  • ClinicalTrials.gov/NCT04191148