Singapore National Biofilm Consortium

Building on Singapore’s strong foundation in biofilm research, the Singapore National Biofilm Consortium (SNBC) is set up to promote research, partnership and commercialisation involving biofilm products and technologies. Led by the Singapore Centre for Environmental Life Sciences Engineering (SCELSE), the SNBC will provide a seamless platform to connect researchers and companies for translating biofilm and microbiome research into innovative solutions that would meet industry’s needs.  

Over the years, Singapore has made significant advances in the study of biofilms (surface-associated microbial communities) and microbiomes to address key issues such as ecosystem stability, biodiversity, urban water cycle ecology, and pathogen transport in urban ecosystems.  The consortium will provide companies with access to knowledge and expertise from SCELSE, Institutes of Higher Learning and research institutions for applications in various market segments including food, household surfaces, marine, paint manufacturing, cosmetics, water purification, desalination and membranes, bioremediation and resource reclamation, water and wastewater treatment, medical implants and surfaces, bioreactors in industrial production, and oil and gas.  

Several companies including Flotech Controls Pte. Ltd., Procter & Gamble (P&G) and Carl Zeiss Pte. Ltd. have indicated interest in joining the consortium.  In addition to accessing the consortium’s research expertise and network, members can participate in training, technology workshops to facilitate industry-academia interactions, and apply for seed funding for technology development and applications.  The consortium will also collaborate with the United Kingdom’s National Biofilms Innovation Centre, as a global partner, to foster exchange and partnerships between researchers and companies in both countries.   

SNBC will be governed by a Steering Committee and a Technology Management Committee.  The Steering Committee is in charge of the overall direction, strategy and work plan of the consortium, and will be chaired by Professor Lam Khin Yong, Vice President (Research) at Nanyang Technological University, Singapore.  The Technology Management Committee will assess the technical direction of the consortium, and will be chaired by Professor Staffan Kjelleberg, Centre Director of SCELSE.  

Focus Areas for Research Commercialisation

Biofilm Research
Bacterial biofilm invading and killing host cells (in blue). (Credit: Artur Matysik,
Kline Lab, SCELSE)

Biofilms are complex microbial communities that are associated with surfaces and are the oldest and most widespread mode of life.  They can be made up of microbial cells of the same species, but typically comprise multi-species and diverse consortia that cooperate to the advantage of member microbes.  Biofilms collectively represent the largest biomass and activity centre on the planet and they play a major role in the biology of the environment and in maintaining public health.  Therefore, the understanding of biofilms is key to discovering, controlling and directing the behaviour of biofilm communities for sustainable environmental, engineering, public health and medical applications.  

The consortium will focus on four areas for research commercialisation: 

  • Clean surface technology: Design surfaces that can disrupt or improve bacterial colonisation in antimicrobial coatings for paint, food packaging and cleaning agents, as well as medical implants.  For example, engineered surfaces that prevent unwanted microbial growth in food packaging (i.e. pathogens, food spoiling bacteria), which would improve the shelf-life of food.
  • Environmental monitoring: Develop biofilm sensors to detect environmental biofilm presence and growth in real time, which could prevent pathogens from reaching household taps, and air through air-conditioning units.
  • Microbiome engineering: Manipulate or establish microbial communities for functional applications.  These include food technologies such as optimised microbial fermentation, wastewater treatment through the removal of unwanted nutrients and pathogens, and agriculture by promoting microbial symbionts associated with crop roots which are optimal for plant growth.
  • Assessment framework – tools and technologies: Provide high-resolution assessment and analysis of microbial communities and microbiomes to gain insight on the effects of commercial products on microbiomes and people (i.e. skin, wounds, and gut conditions).
     
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