Recombinant Phages for Targeted Bacterial Killing, Infection, Biodetection, and as a Means of Protein Extraction

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Recombinant Phages for Targeted Bacterial Killing, Infection, Biodetection, and as a Means of Protein Extraction


Princeton Docket # 19-3527


Researchers in Princeton University’s Department of Molecular Biology have developed a recombinant phage platform technology that can be easily and precisely engineered for particular disease applications. Current phage therapies are restricted by issues of narrow target range and containment safety concerns. The elegant genetic components of this new system overcome these challenges.


These recombinant phages infect and kill bacterial hosts in response to user-defined inputs. The components that encode these inputs are modular and can be combined, such that all elements are maintained on a single recombinant phage, enabling convenient adaptation of and precise control over the targeting strategy. Additionally, the phages can be engineered to kill a specific bacterial species or multiple species simultaneously. Recombinant phages can also be engineered to harbor fluorescent and bioluminescent reporter genes that enable them to be used for tracking, detection, and in biosensing applications. Recombinant phages can also be used to lyse bacterial cells that produce recombinant proteins, as a rapid method to enable extraction and high-level purification of potentially valuable and/or industrially important biomolecules. The researchers have conducted proof of concept experiments showing target specificity on five human pathogens including those in mixed bacterial populations.



•       Elimination of bacteria from biomedical, industrial, or ecological settings

•       High-sensitivity biosensor for detection of specific bacteria or environmental conditions

•       Easy lysis of bacteria producing recombinant proteins for rapid extraction



•       Precisely controlled targeting strategy

•       Optional “safety-switches” inhibiting natural infection abilities to eliminate undesired effects

•       Broad target range

•       Modular platform technology


Intellectual Property & Development Status


Patent protection is pending.

Princeton is currently seeking commercial partners for the further development and commercialization of this opportunity.




Silpe, J.E., and Bassler, B.L. (2019). A host-produced quorum-sensing autoinducer controls a phage lysis-lysogeny decision. Cell 176, 268-280.


The Inventors


Bonnie Bassler is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the National Academy of Medicine. She is a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator and the Squibb Professor and Chair of the Department of Molecular Biology at Princeton University. Bassler received a B.S. in Biochemistry from the University of California at Davis, and a Ph.D. in Biochemistry from the Johns Hopkins University. She performed postdoctoral work in Genetics at the Agouron Institute, and she joined the Princeton faculty in 1994. Dr. Bassler is the recipient of numerous awards including but not limited to the National Academies’ Richard Lounsbery Award, the Wiley Prize in Biomedical Science, the American Society for Microbiology’s Eli Lilly Investigator Award, the Shaw Prize in Medicine, the Dickson Prize in Medicine, and a MacArthur Foundation Fellowship.


Justin Silpe is a graduate student in the Bassler lab at Princeton University.




Cortney Cavanaugh

Princeton University Office of Technology Licensing

(609) 258-7256 •

Patent Information:
For Information, Contact:
Cortney Cavanaugh
New Ventures and Licensing associate
Princeton University
Justin Silpe
Bonnie Bassler