Entrepreneurship & Innovation Clinic Client Gets Cholera Treatment Closer to Communities


An Entrepreneurship & Innovation Clinic (EIC) client has obtained an exclusive license to develop and market a product that uses bacteria-killing viruses known as bacteriophages to prevent community spread of cholera in parts of the world disproportionately affected by the disease.

With the patent and technology license secured, PhagePro can now pursue the development of a solid-dose formulation of its prophylactic treatment, ProphaLytic-Vc (PVC), that will be easy to administer and stable in hot and humid environments.

The EIC has represented the Boston-based global health startup since 2018 on licensing, R&D collaborations, and general corporate matters. The company spun out of the Camilli Lab at Tufts University School of Medicine.

PhagePro CEO Minmin Yen, Ph.D., M.P.H. called securing the license “monumental” for the company. 

“Without this license, we wouldn’t be able to do this optimization and [PVC] would stay stuck in the lab,” Yen said. “Now, we’ll be able to get it out of the lab and to the people who need it most.”

The World Health Organization has estimated that 1.3 billion people are at risk for cholera, an acute diarrheal disease that can kill within 12 hours of symptoms appearing.

PVC is intended for use in communities where cholera cases have been identified, before the disease has spread. Unlike antibiotics, bacteriophages do not give rise to antibiotic resistance. Since bacteriophages are plentiful and naturally-occurring, phage-based products like PVC are inexpensive to make and accessible.

Like other EIC clients, PhagePro is pursuing social entrepreneurship by incorporating social and financial elements into its business model. Unlike pharmaceutical companies that hone in on chronic diseases that safeguard their financial sustainability, PhagePro targets disease in resource-limited communities in Asia and Africa where the need is greatest and the burden of antibiotic resistance is high.

Once the solid-dose formulation of PVC is developed, PhagePro will rely on the expertise of partners on the ground, including a research partner, the International Centre for Diarrhoeal Disease Research, Bangladesh (icddr,b), to help support a product development pathway and commercialize the treatment. The company hopes to build partnerships with global health organizations like Doctors Without Borders, UNICEF, and the Red Cross to help with outreach and access on the ground.
To Yen, who was selected by MIT Technology Review for its Innovators Under 35 List in 2018, obtaining the license was a tipping point for the company. For EIC students, working with PhagePro has been challenging and rewarding.

“Working with PhagePro has been one of my most fulfilling experiences at the law school,” Derek Mubiru ’23 said. “Beyond the substantial role that we as law students have played in drafting and negotiating a sophisticated licensing document, the fact that our work is helping to advance potentially life-saving therapies for underprivileged countries makes the work that much more meaningful.”

Former EIC student Jacob Madden ’22 said working with PhagePro changed the trajectory of his career. 

“I never thought my work with one client would have such an influence on my career path,” Madden said. “While I was initially focused on becoming a litigator, the two years I worked with PhagePro in law school introduced me to what has become a fascination with life sciences and health care transactional work.” 

After graduating last spring, Madden accepted a one-year postdoctoral fellowship in the Combating Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria Pharmaceutical Accelerator (CARB-X) at Boston University School of Law, and the Program on Regulation, Therapeutics, and Law (PORTAL) at Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women’s Hospital. Later this year, Madden will join Simpson Thacher in New York as a corporate associate, where he plans to focus on life sciences and health care transactions. 

“If I hadn’t had the opportunity to work with PhagePro in the EIC and discover what I consider to be such interesting and meaningful work, I am confident I would not be where I am today,” Madden said.

EIC Director and Clinical Associate Professor of Law Sven Riethmueller commended PhagePro’s approach.

“We are proud to work with a group of creative innovators who are deliberate in their approach to social entrepreneurship, seek to build equity into partnerships, and create the capacity and infrastructure necessary for the sustainability not only of their product, but in service of changing the field,” Riethmueller said. “With its roots firmly grounded in the principles of diversity, equity, and inclusion, we believe PhagePro is poised to lead the way in building a different kind of biotech — one that can benefit people and communities around the world.”

The Entrepreneurship & Innovation Clinic at Yale Law School works closely with the entrepreneurial communities at Yale University and beyond.  Our clients range from student and faculty-led ventures at Yale to innovative start-ups and emerging growth companies from entrepreneurial places on the East Coast and from around the globe, including from the greater New Haven innovation ecosystem.