Cape Town, South Africa – 06 November 2023 –

TASK, a renowned tuberculosis (TB) research institute based in Cape Town, South Africa, is proud to announce its leadership role in a groundbreaking project, Phages4TB. This collaborative initiative, aimed at developing mycobacteriophage-based treatments for TB, has received significant funding support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

TB remains a global health crisis, claiming over a million lives each year. The emergence of drug-resistant strains of Mycobacterium tuberculosis, the bacterium causing TB, presents a significant challenge to conventional treatment methods. Recognizing the urgent need for innovative solutions, the Phages4TB project, supported by the Gates Foundation, brings together leading research institutions from around the world.

The Phages4TB project represents a collaborative effort between TASK, South Africa, the University of Pittsburgh and the Seattle Children’s Research Institute, both in the USA, and the Radboud University Medical Center (Radboud UMC) in the Netherlands. This international consortium of experts is committed to revolutionize the fight against TB by harnessing the potential of mycobacteriophages—viruses that specifically target mycobacteria.

Bacteriophages (or ‘phages’) are viruses that are able to infect and kill bacteria. Phage therapy was used prior to the availability of antibiotics. Recently there has been renewed interest in phage therapy fueled by the antimicrobial resistance crisis. Whereas for most infections phage therapy needs to be individualized, M tuberculosis has a relatively low genetic diversity so there is potential to develop a TB phage combination that could be used to treat most TB patients.

“We are honored to lead the Phages4TB project, and we are immensely grateful to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation for supporting this disruptive initiative,” said Saskia Janssen, MD, PhD and leader of the project at TASK. “This collaborative effort brings together some of the brightest minds in TB and phage research from across the globe, and we are committed to advancing phage-based therapies to combat this devastating disease.”

A phage combination has been developed by prof. Graham Hatfull and his team at the University of Pittsburgh, which has shown activity in the laboratory against the clinically most relevant lineages of Mycobacterium tuberculosis. The project’s core objectives include further preclinical development of this phage combination to prepare for a first-in-human clinical trial. Activity of the phage combination will be assessed against M. tuberculosis in specific conditions (including intracellular conditions), in a mouse model of active TB, and in sputum samples of patients with TB. Through these rigorous preclinical studies, Phages4TB aims to provide a groundbreaking alternative to conventional TB treatments, potentially offering a non-toxic treatment option potentially shortening treatment of drug-sensitive and drug-resistant TB.

“Our partnership with the University of Pittsburgh, the Seattle Children’s Research Institute, and Radboud UMC is testament to our shared commitment to finding innovative ways to tackle TB,” added prof Andreas Diacon, Principal Investigator at TASK. “In this small group, we aim to take a step toward a future where TB is no longer a global health threat. This project will also significantly inform research in other applications of phage therapy, which is a promising lead in the combat against antimicrobial resistance”.

The Phages4TB project will leverage the unique expertise and resources of each participating institution, fostering a multidisciplinary approach to TB research and phage therapy development. By combining the strengths of researchers from South Africa, the United States, and the Netherlands, the project is well-positioned to make significant strides in the fight against TB and antimicrobial resistance.

For media inquiries or more information about Phages4TB, please contact dr. Saskia Janssen at or Andreas Diacon at

About TASK:

TASK is a leading research institute based in Cape Town, South Africa, improving global health through testing and progressing novelty medicines, vaccines and diagnostics in various therapeutic areas with particular interest in TB. TASK’s vision of better healthcare for everyone drives their mission to provide a platform for the development of novelties in healthcare that benefit the community. TASK’s first trial was conducted in 2005, and over the years the institute has become a critical junction for the early clinical testing of novel TB therapeutics. TASK is committed to conducting cutting-edge research and collaborating with international partners to address the global TB epidemic. At TASK, the efficacy of the mycobacteriophage combination will be assessed in vitro on M tuberculosis in sputa from TB patients.

About the Hatfull lab at the University of Pittsburgh

Graham Hatfull is a professor in the Department of Biological Sciences at the University of Pittsburgh. The Hatfull lab studies the molecular genetics of the mycobacteria and their mycobacteriophages. The TB phage combination that will be used for this project has been developed at the Hatfull laboratory. Further information is available at

About the Coler lab at Seattle Children’s Research Institute

The mission of the Center for Global Infectious Disease Research (CGIDR), one of nine centers at Seattle Children’s Research Institute, is to make transformative scientific advances that lead to the prevention, treatment and cures of infectious diseases impacting children and families around the world. Research in the Coler Lab centers on vaccine development and host-directed therapies against a variety of epidemic and pandemic diseases, including TB. Our focus is translational research: we funnel vaccine candidates from the laboratory to human studies. The Coler Lab will provide preclinical proof of concept (in vitro and acute in vivo studies) for a defined mycobacteriophage (phage) cocktail as a therapeutic candidate against TB in humans.

About the van Ingen laboratory at the Radboud University Medical Center

Driven by Radboud UMC’s goal to improve treatment outcomes in mycobacterial disease through preclinical and clinical evaluation of novel treatment strategies, dr van Ingen supervises the mycobacteriology reference laboratory at Radboud University Medical Center in Nijmegen, the Netherlands. The van Ingen laboratory focuses on the pharmacodynamics of antimycobacterial drugs and development of new treatment strategies for TB and nontuberculous mycobacterial disease using a pipeline of preclinical models. The van Ingen laboratory will work on in vitro and ex vivo studies with the phage combination on M. tuberculosis in relevant physiological circumstances.