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The University of Southampton
Biological Sciences
(023) 8059 4390

Professor Jeremy S Webb BSc, MSc, PhD

Professor of Microbiology, Co-Director & Principal Investigator (Biofilms and Microbial Communities),Director of the Faculty Graduate School for Environmental and Life Sciences,Deputy Director of the Doctoral College

Professor Jeremy S Webb's photo

Professor Jeremy S Webb is Professor of Microbiology within Biological Sciences at the University of Southampton.

Career history

2017-Present: Co-Director, Principal Investigator, National Biofilms Innovation Centre (NBIC).
2015-Present: Professor of Microbiology. Biological Sciences, University of Southampton, UK.
2016-2017: Deputy-Director, Doctoral College of the University of Southampton, UK.
2012-2016: Director of the Graduate School of Biological Sciences. University of Southampton, UK.
2014-2015: Associate Professor Centre in Microbiology. University of Southampton, UK.
2012-2014: Senior Lecturer. University of Southampton, UK.

Fellowship awards

2006-2011: BBSRC David Phillips Fellow. University of Southampton, UK.
2002-2006: Australian Research Council APD Fellowship. University of New South Wales, Australia.
2000-2002: Leverhulme Trust Study Abroad Award. University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia.

Academic qualifications

1996-2000: PhD Microbiology. University of Manchester, UK.
1995-1996: MSc (Distinction). University of Exeter, UK.
1992-1995: BSc (Hons) Biological Sciences. University of Exeter, UK.

Research interests

Microbial Biofilms and their Control, Adaptive Biology and Evolution of Microorganisms, Biofilm-Associated Infection, Microbial Ecology, Environmental Biotechnology, Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR).

Bacteria often switch from a free-living lifestyle to a surface adapted, structured lifestyle known as a biofilm. Biofilms are increasingly recognised as the predominant mode of bacterial growth including within medical, engineered, and environmental contexts. Biofilms are notorious for their resistance to environmental stresses, including antimicrobial compounds. This tolerance often links biofilms with persistent and chronic infection, and provides ideal conditions for the acquisition or evolution of AMR.

My research group aims to understand how biofilms develop and disperse and how they respond to environmental stresses including therapeutic compounds. This approach is providing new technologies and strategies to control biofilms in industrial and medical settings.

Selected findings:

Cell lysis as a feature of biofilm development. We found that subpopulations of biofilm bacteria undergo cell death and lysis as a feature of the Pseudomonas aeruginosa biofilm life cycle. This can contribute to biofilm dispersal, and provides a mechanism for the release of extracellular DNA (eDNA) within biofilms. PubMed ID: 14662353

Role of a new filamentous prophage Pf4 in Pseudomonas aeruginosa biofilm development. We isolated and named this phage, showed that it becomes superinfective to its host during biofilm development, and found that it plays a role in phenotypic diversification of biofilm bacteria. Further work has shown the importance of this phage in the P. aeruginosa biofilm lifecycle and virulence. PubMed IDs: 15547279; 19005496

Nitric oxide-mediated regulation of biofilm dispersal. We discovered that exogenous nitric oxide can act as a signal for the dispersal of bacterial biofilms. Treatment of biofilms with nitric oxide also reduced their resistance to antimicrobial compounds. Much additional work by our group and others’ is now elucidating the nitric oxide and c-di-GMP-mediated signalling pathway, and its exploitation for biofilm control in medical and industrial contexts. PubMed ID: 17050922

An increase in bacterial mutation rate can promote biofilm formation. We showed that strains of Pseudomonas aeruginosa with increased mutation rates (caused by deletion of genes involved in DNA mismatch repair) produced more biofilm biomass in laboratory experiments. PubMed ID: 19606212

Short-term parallel evolution in biofilms. Using next-generation sequencing approaches, including deep sequencing of entire populations of bacterial cells, we showed that reproducible patterns of evolution can occur quickly (<20 generations, a few days of biofilm growth) within biofilms. PubMed IDs: 27190203, 24706926

Research group


Affiliate research groups

Ecology and Evolution, Institute for Life Sciences (IfLS), Molecular and Cellular Biosciences, Institute for Complex Systems Simulation (ICSS)

Research project(s)

Combating Pseudomonas aeruginosa biofilm tolerance and antibiotic resistance in cystic fibrosis

This project will exploit novel nitric oxide based therapies to improve the effectiveness of antibiotics against Pseudomonas aeruginosa biofilms.

Engineering, environmental and human behavioural factors influencing the colonisation of hospital water outlets by Pseudomonas aeruginosa

Understanding Pseudomonas aeruginosa colonization and biofilm formation in hospital water systems.

Dispersal of Biofilm in Cystic Fibrosis using Low Dose Nitric Oxide

Using low dose nitric oxide to disperse bacterial biofilms in cystic fibrosis and improve antibiotic efficacy.

Biofouling control for in-situ lab-on-a-chip environmental sensors

Using microscopy and molecular community analysis techniques, the effects of antifouling methods will be assessed.

Evolution of cooperation in microbial biofilms

Bacteria often occur in structured communities in nature, called biofilms, in which they form microcolonies.

Genetic diversification in a multi-species bacterial biofilm community

Using a multispecies biofilm model to understand how interactions between bacteria during biofilm development can influence bacterial diversification.

Microbial interactions in multi-species drinking water biofilm community

Using the model organism Pseudomonas aeruginosa to investigate mechanisms by which drinking water biofilms harbour important pathogenic microorganism and how these interactions within multi-species biofilms can enhance genetic adaptation and evolution of microbial pathogens.

Role of hypoxia and DNA mismatch repair in tumorigenesis

Using a multicellular tumour spheroid model to investigate the role of hypoxia and DNA mismatch repair on the fundamental processes of importance in tumour development

The role of nitric oxide in the control of biofilm and zoonotic pathogen colonisation of the salad phylloplane

Investigating the use of the signalling molecule nitric oxide for microbial control at the phylloplane

Reducing the Burden of intravenous drug/nutrition delivery system infections using novel anti-biofilm strategies.

Delivery of fluoride and antimicrobial agents into dental plaque biofilms

Antimicrobial Tolerance in Bacterial Biofilms: An Inter-Disciplinary Approach

Persisters are dormant bacterial cells capable of surviving antibiotic treatment. Subpopulations of persister cells are present within bacterial biofilm communities. This inter-disciplinary project uses population ecology theory to understand the phenomenon of persister cells in bacterial populations.

Discover novel ways used by phages to strike back against bacterial defences

Targeted, small molecule Pseudomonas aeruginosa biofilm dispersal agents for the treatment of infections in CF patients

University of Southampton

Director of the Faculty Graduate School for Environmental and Life Sciences, University of Southampton, UK.
Member of Steering Committee for the Institute for Life Sciences, University of Southampton, UK.
Deputy Director of the Doctoral College Board, University of Southampton, UK.
Member of the Equality and Diversity Committee for Biological Sciences, University of Southampton, UK.

Professional Contributions

Microbiology Society Policy Committee member, 2013-present.
Treasurer, International Biodeterioration and Biodegradation Society (IBBS) 2012-present.Editorial Board member, Nature Scientific Reports, 2015-present.

Conference organisation

Invited to host and chair the Scientific Organising Committee for the international conference Biofilms 4, Winchester, UK, Sept 1–3 2010, attended by over 300 delegates from 37 countries.
Organiser, IBBS Conference on ‘Novel antimicrobial strategies for the control of Biofilms’, Winchester, UK, 2012.
International organising Committee member for the International ‘Biofilms V’ conference, Paris, 2012.
International Organising Committee member , ‘Eurobiofilms’, Ghent, Belgium, Sept 2013.
Organising Committee for IBBS’ 17th Triennial Symposium, IBBS 17, Manchester, 2017.

Professor Jeremy S Webb
Biological Sciences
Faculty of Environmental and Life Sciences
Life Sciences Building 85
University of Southampton
Highfield Campus
SO17 1BJ

Room Number : 85/4057

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