Fire blight, caused by the bacterium Erwinia amylovora, is a common and frequently destructive disease of pome fruit trees and related plants. Pears and apples are extremely susceptible, making fire blight a serious concern to apple and pear producers. The disease can destroy limbs and even entire shrubs or trees, in a single growing season, resulting in huge financial losses. Today, there is not a fully efficient and official treatment for fire blight (e.g. chemical pesticides which are among the most common treatments in this regard are of a limited efficiency, while antibiotics do not offer preventive counter measurements and are banned in Europe).
The PhageFire project is devised to satisfy the unmet need for a secure and reliable solution to control fire blight. The Spanish pome fruit producer, Peras de Rincón de Soto, worried about own significant production losses due to fire blight, has partnered with Enviroinvest (Hungary) an expert company in production, authorization and commercialization of phage-based pesticides, ZHAW (Switzerland) – a top research centre in phage therapy and Kimitec Group specialist in the design, development and commercialization of natural solutions for the plant protection sector. Together, they aim to further develop an integrated phage-based solution enabling pome fruit farmers to effectively control Erwinia amylovora infections, reducing both production and economic losses. In addition, this will also result on reduced reliance on harmful chemicals (mainly copper-based products) and antibiotics. Based on our advanced current development of phages cocktails and their successful results on the safety and benefits of phages, our goal is to develop and commercialise PhageFire as the first-in-class phage-based biopesticide in Europe providing effective prevention and treatment against Ea infections.
The scalable potential of phages will also enable targeting new horizons in plant disease protection.