Consumer Care

Team OBD: Oral Biofilm Disruption

Surface-associated multispecies bacterial communities thrive in biofilms, both in natural habitats and in laboratory environments. Biofilms are structural scaffolds made up of extracellular polymeric substances that establish micro-niches with distinct biochemical gradients and support signaling-cross-talk between members of either a single or multiple bacterial communities. The chemical composition of biofilms and their dense physical structures also serve as protective barriers that impede the permeation of anti-microbial agents from reaching the pathogens that are embedded within the biofilms. Thus the properties of biofilms contribute significantly to the pathogenesis of numerous chronic diseases, making biofilm-based infections extremely difficult to address. For instance, pathogens encapsulated in biofilms often survive aggressive antibiotic treatments, resisting drug doses several orders of magnitude higher than those that prove lethal to their planktonic counterparts.

Biofilm systems are ubiquitous throughout nature, but of particular interest to our team are the multispecies biofilms that colonize the oral cavity. The microbial metabolism within the biofilms established on teeth and gingival sulcus cause dental caries and periodontitis. Disruption of well-established biofilms and inhibition of the spread of pathogenic biofilms in the oral cavity are attractive strategies for treating these diseases. Our team strives to understand the underlying molecular factors that contribute to the synthesis and degradation of polymeric substances during the natural life cycle of multispecies biofilms. In particular, we are researching oral biofilms at various spatial resolutions by employing multidisciplinary approaches from fields such as microbial ecology, metabolomics and structural biology, with the final objective of discovering an array of novel small molecules that disrupt and inhibit pathogenic biofilms in the oral cavity.

Mentors

  • Dr. Deepak Sharma
    Worldwide Director Global Enabling Systems Development Group at Johnson & Johnson Consumer Inc. (Industry mentor)
  • Dr. Robert Gambogi
    Research Director and Fellow at Johnson & Johnson – Global Consumer Healthcare (Industry mentor)
  • Dr. Wolf-Rainer Abraham
    Head of Research Group Chemical Microbiology at the Helmholtz Center for Infection Research Braunschweig (Academic mentor)
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The research of this team is kindly sponsored by Johnson & Johnson.

Our Team Members

Dr. Balendu Avvaru

Group Leader

Protein structure and catalysis of enzymes secreted in oral biofilms. Fragment-based drug discovery

Previous work
  • 2014–2015: Postdoctoral Researcher at German Cancer Research Center, Heidelberg, Germany
  • 2012–2014: Postdoctoral Researcher at Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, Gif sur Yvette, France
  • 2011: Postdoctoral Researcher at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, New York City, USA
  • 2006–2010: PhD in Structural Biology and Biochemistry at University of Florida, Gainesville, USA

Dr. Harikrishnan Nair

Postdoctoral Researcher

Mixed species biofilm expert with specialization in imaging and multi-omics techniques

Previous work
  • 2012–2016: PhD in Singapore Center on Environmental Life Sciences Engineering, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore
  • 2009–2011: Master in Biology, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences; Sweden
  • 2004–2008: Bachelor in Biotechnology, S. R. M. University, Chennai, India

Dr. Rakesh Santhanam

Postdoctoral Researcher

Microbial ecology-based therapies to disrupt oral biofilm

Previous work
  • 2012–2016: PhD in the Department of Molecular Ecology with Prof. Ian T. Baldwin at Max-Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology, Jena, Germany
  • 2010–2012: Junior Research Scientist at Demuris Ltd, Newcastle University, United Kingdom
  • 2009–2010: Guest scientist at Microbial Laboratory, School of Biology, Newcastle University, United Kingdom

Stephanie Haase

Research Assistant

Previous work
  • 2010-2016: Biology Laboratory Assistant, Antibody-based Immunotherapeutics, National Center for Tumor Diseases (NCT) Heidelberg, Germany
  • 2006-2010: Biology Laboratory Assistant, Department of Cardiology, University Hospital Heidelberg, Germany
  • 2002-2006: Training as Biology Laboratory Assistant, IPMB, University of Heidelberg, Germany