Branch Special Interest Groups

The Biofilm Special Interest Group

The Biofilm Special Interest Group (SIG) was originally set up by Prof Iain Gosbell (Liverpool Hospital), A/Prof Jim Manos, and others with biofilm interests, in 2016-17. It is a Special Interest Group under the NSW/ACT Branch of the Australian Society for Microbiology. It has since been revitalised and reintroduced in March 2022 under the guidance of its Convenor, Dr Heema Vyas (USYD). Its renewed vision is that of creating an active community of researchers/industry partners representing the full breadth of biofilms (medical, agricultural, marine etc). The Biofilm SIG has made a strong start with its inaugural event – The Biofilm Bash. The Biofilm Bash held on 25th March boasted 42 attendees, two fantastic talks by Prof Mark Willcox (UNSW) and Dr Anne Mai-Prochnow (USYD), and a sponsored talk by Whiteley!

Overall, the Biofilm SIG aims to capture the diversity and breadth of biofilm research/happenings:

      • Bringing together researchers/industry partners to share research and ideas on biofilms
      • Fostering the interest and collegiate interactions among our community representing differing disciplines and organisations
      • Promoting the advancement of knowledge about biofilms

If you would like to join the ASM NSW/ACT Biofilm SIG, please contact the Convenor of the Biofilm SIG, Dr Heema Vyas

Biofilm SIG Executive Committee

Convenor: Dr Heema Vyas (USYD)

Dr Heema Vyas is a Post-Doctoral Research Associate with Dr Anne Mai-Prochnow at the University of Sydney. Heema is researching the effect of cold atmospheric plasma on bacterial biofilms. Prior to her Post-Doc, Heema completed her PhD in May (2021) at the University of Wollongong, where her PhD project focused on understanding Group A Streptococcus biofilm formation in the context of recurrent GAS pharyngitis. Heema has a passion for leadership and bringing together people interested in microbiology, antimicrobial resistance, and biofilms. This has seen her form the ASM NSW/ACT Branch Biofilm SIG, as well as her serving on both the ASM NSW/ACT Branch Exec Committee and the Joint Academic Microbial Seminars Exec Committee. In addition to championing her research interests, Heema advocates for mental health and wellbeing in academia. Moreover, as a queer woman of colour in STEMM, Heema is passionate about ensuring parity for all in STEMM. Follow Heema on Twitter @HKNVee

Deputy Convenor: Associate Prof Jim Manos (USYD)

A/Prof Jim Manos is a member of the Infection Immunity and Inflammation research theme in the School of Medical Sciences, Faculty of Medicine and Health, University of Sydney. He teaches Medical Science students and is Head of the Bacterial Pathogens Research Group. He has 39 publications (1745 citations; h-index=22-Google Scholar) in quality peer-reviewed journals, four book chapters, two PCT-stage patents and one record of invention. He has received funding from the Australian CF Research Trust, the NHMRC, University funding sources (CDIP and MBI/DDI Seed grants) and currently an industry-partnership grant with Whiteley Corporation through the Federal Government’s Innovative Manufacturing CRC ($4,152,000 -2018-2022). The aim of this grant is to fully develop the group’s biofilm disruption methods for use in in vivo settings, including: CF lung infection, UTIs, Diabetic leg wounds, Bacterial Vaginosis and wet and dry biofilms.
Follow Jim on Twitter @jim_manos9


Secretary: Evan Gibbs (UoN)

Evan is currently a PhD candidate in the Bacterial Regulation and Transport Laboratory (BRaT Lab) at the University of Newcastle (UoN) under Dr Karl Hassan. His PhD candidature focuses on antimicrobial resistance and alternative sources to fossil fuel-based products. He also collaborates with a team of innovative PhD candidates and postdocs on autonomously forming, polymicrobial synthetic scaffolds. Together with two other PhD candidates he advises the inaugural iGEM Team and Australasian SynBio Team, The DeNovocastrians. He also led a prize-winning team in the UoN Ideas Spark Competition that aims to use 3D printed devices incorporating synthetic microbial communities to knockdown mosquito populations in a target area.

Evan serves on committees for the Australian Society of Microbiology- (NSW/ACT Branch) and the Joint Academic Microbial Seminars. He is the Postgraduate Representative for Research on the UoN Academic Senate, Research Committee, IBC and Student Representative Council and the HDR Student Voice Committee.
Follow Evan on Twitter @EvoGibbs


Scientific Officer: Dr Anahit Penesyan (MQ)

Dr Ani (Anahit) Penesyan is a Research Fellow at Macquarie University (MQ). In 2011 Ani started a new research area for MQ, on microbial biofilms, which she currently leads. Ani uses state-of-the-art multi-omics tools to unravel microbial interactions, microbial evolution and adaptation in biofilm communities, as well as to uncover mechanisms of antimicrobial resilience in biofilms. The overarching aim of Ani’s work is to understand the complex biofilm biology and develop novel strategies to construct and utilise beneficial biofilms, as well as to control unwanted biofilm formation. Ani currently leads biofilm research at the ARC Centre of Excellence in Synthetic Biology.
Follow Ani on Twitter @anibio


Student Representative: Stefano Freddi (MQ)

Stefano Freddi is a Master of Research student working with Dr Anahit Penesyan at Macquarie University. His current project aims to identify novel gene cassettes and integrons in marine macroalgae-associated biofilms and investigate the predicted functions of their gene cassettes. This research will contribute to our understanding of bacterial genome evolution and help in the discovery of gene products that are central to the formation and maintenance of bacterial biofilms.

Prior to this, Stefano completed a Master in Tropical Marine Biology and Ecology at James Cook University and worked as a professional diver.







2022 Events

Biofilm Bash: March 25th 2022

The inaugural event celebrating the relaunch of the ASM NSW/ACT Branch Biofilm SIG!

For a summary of the event, see event report extracted from the ASM Syntrophy (Vol 23, Issue 1, 2022):

Speaker Series:

The speaker series will be a staple part of the yearly Biofilm SIG event schedule occurring once every three months. It is an opportunity for researchers of NSW and ACT to share their exciting and cutting-edge research that represents the full breadth and variety of biofilm research areas (medical/health, marine, synthetic, ecological, food etc). The 1.5 h evening event features two invited speakers and concludes with networking over pizza and beverages. The speaker series is designed to share knowledge and spark discussion on biofilms amongst the community, facilitate opportunities for collaboration, and building of new networks between researchers, industry and interested companies.

Friday 17th June:

The FIRST of the speaker sessions held on Friday 17th June, featured two fantastic talks by PhD Candidate Gemma Deakin (Western Sydney University) and A/Prof Scott Rice (CSIRO, Microbiomes for One Systems Health, and Agriculture and Food Westmead). The talks focused on the polymicrobial nature of biofilms. Both speakers presented stunning microscopy images of their complex communities as well as some very interesting research insights!

The next Biofilm SIG speaker series for 2022 will fall in September and December. For more details, be sure to stay tuned via ASM NSW/ACT Branch emails, the branch twitter account (@ASM_NSWACT), and the official Biofilm SIG twitter (@Biofilm_SIG).

Friday 2nd September:

The September Speaker Series was an absolute success with two fantastic talks from PhD candidate Kate Browne (UNSW) and A/Prof Jyl Matson (U. Toledo). This session also had an exciting competition in collaboration with the organising committee of the Asia-Pacific Biofilm Conference 2022, whereby 20 lucky Biofilm SIG members were given free registration to virtually attend this five day conference. In addition to this the Asia Pacific Conference liaised with the Biofilm SIG to include an Australian Biofilm Research session, showcasing the breadth of biofilm research occurring across Australia. Excitingly, representing our ASM NSW/ACT Branch and the Biofilm SIG, Biofilm talks were given by Dr Heema Vyas (USYD) (Convenor of the Biofilm SIG), A/Prof Jim Manos (USYD) (Deputy Convenor of the Biofilm SIG), Dr Anahit Penesyan (MQ) (Scientific Officer of the Biofilm SIG), A/Prof Scott Rice (CSIRO), Dr Helmut Thissen (CSIRO), Prof Mark Wilcox (UNSW)  – and many more!  

Upcoming Events:

Speaker Series: 1st December 2022

Register your attendance by Tuesday 29th November for the upcoming Biofilm SIG December Speaker Series Session: