Biofilms often build up in the lungs of people with Cystic Fibrosis (CF). The biofilms contain large populations of bacterial cells and are encapsulated within gum-like materials.

Biofilms protect bacteria against the action of antibiotics and against the action of cells in the patient’s immune system. Antibiotic resistance can be increased up to 1000-fold in biofilms.

Members of his research team were the first to discover that low concentrations of nitric oxide (NO) act as a signal that triggers bacteria in biofilms to disperse.

When this happens the bacteria become more sensitive to antibiotics and to the body’s immune system. When the researchers combined NO-releasing compounds with antibiotics

(cephalosporins), they developed a new way of targeting delivery of NO to biofilms.

Since the start of the project, the researchers have greatly improved the chemical synthesis of the NO-donor cephalosporins. Recently, they completed the synthesis of four structurally
complex, 2nd generation “all-in-one” cephalosporin NO-donor antibiotics, which are designed to both disperse biofilms and kill the released bacteria.

Preliminary experiments have shown that the new compounds are able to kill bacteria at clinically relevant concentrations and experiments with biofilms are in train.

Funding body

Cystic Fibrosis Australia

Scheme name

Research Grant

Years funded

2015 – 2018

Lead institution

University of Wollongong

Partner institutions

Nanyang Technological University (Singapore)

Research area