Around 2010, a French biotech approached European officials with a wild idea. There are these viruses called bacteriophages, the team explained, which invade bacteria, multiply, and cause the pathogens to explode. As more and more bugs were becoming resistant to antibiotics, the company wanted to use these viruses to combat unrelenting infections — and proposed souping up these helpful parasites with some genetic modification.
The officials were not impressed. “The feedback the company received from the authorities was that it would be extremely difficult to get approval,” explained Guy-Charles Fanneau de la Horie, CEO of Pherecydes Pharma, “the issue being the dissemination of GMOs into nature. This is very sensitive in Europe.”