What is a biofilm?

by Jean-Christophe Denis

A biofilm is made of numerous living micro-organisms, such as bacteria or fungi, evolving and growing as a collective. Contemporary research has shown that when these micro-organisms group together to form a biofilm, the biofilm is much than just a collection of micro-organism, but can be seen as a new material. This is a bit like LEGO© pieces: one LEGO piece does not have much use; neither does an unassembled stack of LEGO© pieces. However, if one start assembling these LEGO© pieces together, they will create something totally new, with new functions, and very different to the stack of unassembled LEGO© pieces. In biofilms, micro-organisms will communicate together and assemble by themselves, creating a new material (a film) of very different proprieties from the original, single micro-organism.

Without realising it, you actually see biofilms every day. Biofilms grow particularly well in wet areas, and the light pink areas in your shower, or the grey parts you can see in pipes at home, are biofilms.

Why doing research on biofilms matter?

Biofilms are all around us, so both fundamental and applied research on biofilms can have significant implications and practical applications on the world around us. This can range for instance from fighting antibiotic resistance to engineering anti-clogging pipes, from designing improved, more targeted drugs to creating new long-lasting paints for boat. This is why NBIC has been established: to be at the forefront of biofilm research and deliver significant and impactful innovations for society.