When American businessman William B. McCall first became involved in Georgia's phage therapy industry just after the turn of the 21st century, he confronted a fundamental choice. Would he follow the lead of other Western concerns, and seek to transfer assets and technology outside Georgia? After all, the so-called "conventional wisdom" suggested that a) Georgia's political environment would never become sufficiently stable to justify a significant investment of capital "in country;" and b) Western scientists could quickly replicate the seven decades of work which Georgian scientists had performed in perfecting phage therapy; all they required was access to the raw phages which Georgians had collected and preserved in a "library" over the course of many years. Plus, additional concerns existed regarding the condition of Georgia's phage therapy production equipment - as the Chief Executive Officer of another Western company which had recently departed Georgia had suggested, "[w]hy tie [a] company to an aging Soviet-era research facility?"1
Yet, Mr. McCall was among the few Americans present in Tbilisi when the United States recognized Georgia as an independent nation almost one decade earlier. During the very difficult years of civil war and economic deprivation which followed, Mr. McCall worked closely with the Georgian government to avert famine (arranging for a shipment of 596,000 tons of high quality, hard red winter wheat to Georgia) and to arrange the replacement of Georgia's aging air traffic control system. Through these efforts, Mr. McCall developed unique relationships of trust which familiarized him with the Georgian character - those qualities of hard work, perseverance, and creativity which have enabled Georgians to surmount innumerable hardships and challenges throughout their history - and Mr. McCall understands that these intangible characteristics which animate the Georgian spirit are what inspired and empowered Georgian scientists to perfect phage therapy.
With the proper training, most scientists can isolate phages from the natural environment. Properly selecting, preparing, and preserving phages so they effectively kill the bacteria which cause disease, however, is another matter entirely. When Western pharmaceutical companies attempted to commercially manufacture phage medicines during the 1930s, they simply did not understand how phages work well enough to produce successful treatments - and phage therapy was branded a "failure." With the dawn of the "Golden Age of Antibiotics," most of the world moved on - but Georgian scientists kept working on phage therapy until they developed the intricate steps necessary to make phage therapy effective. In other words, one cannot cleave phage therapy from the Georgian scientific expertise which has enabled it to work.
As ABTI strives to lead a united Georgian effort to extend the blessings of phage therapy worldwide, it will continue to emphasize the courage, sacrifice, and brilliance that Georgians displayed in building a industry - and an art - which may yet rescue the world from its overuse of antibiotics. While others continue to suggest that companies which strive to succeed in phage therapy must "bring Georgian medicines up to Western standards," ABTI believes precisely the opposite - that at a time when Western medicine faces the emerging crisis of antibiotic resistance, it would wisely consider the Georgian model for fighting and winning the war against bacterial pathogens.