About the Costerton Biofilm Center

The Costerton Biofilm Center is a unique interdisciplinary research center established to explore the field of chronic infections caused by bacteria.

Costerton Biofilm Center 2024
Costerton Biofilm Center 2024


The Costerton Biofilm Center is named in the honour of Dr John William Costerton.

Dr John William (Bill) Costerton studied biofilms for more than 40 years. As a Canadian, he was a man of the mountains and spent hours climbing in his beloved Canadian Rockies. His PhD was in microbiology and he wanted to combine his passion for his two hobbies - climbing and science.

His first observation was when he tackled an alpine stream in the Bugaboos in eastern British Columbia, Canada. While climbing he noticed the rocks were slippery and he observed that whereas the free floating water contained only few bacteria per milliliter the slippery rocks were covered with bacteria stuck in “slime”.

Biofilm paradigm

Dr. Costerton pioneered the development of the biofilm theory of which bacteria grow enclosed in a protective, biopolymeric matrix forming a film that is adherent to solid surfaces (a sessile organism). Together with University of Copenhagen's Dr. Niels Høiby, he strongly promoted the view that bacteria in biofilms (environmental as well as medical relevant) differ significantly from their planktonic (free-floating) counterparts (Costerton et al., Sci Am 1978).

Dr. Costerton published over 700 peer-reviewed papers that provide a solid basis for the understanding of bacterial processes in environmental, dental and medical microbiology. The research led to many industrial and medical relevant breakthroughs, confirming that biofilms cause chronic infections and biofilm implant-related infections represent one of the most difficult-to-treat infections in humans.

Dr. John William Costerton passed away on 12 May 2012.







A tribute in memory of our colleague and friend Professor Paul Stoodley

Paul Stoodley held the positions of Professor of Microbial Infection and Immunity and Orthopedics at the Ohio State University, and Professor in Microbial Tribology at University of Southampton, among several other academic and research appointments and responsibilities, in the US, UK and internationally.

Professor Paul Stoodley

Paul was a key international research leader in the field of microbial biofilms, across fundamental science and the numerous profound applications of this scientific field. On the basis of introducing new multidisciplinary research programs, Paul led the way and expanded the scope, capacities, and excellence of research at several microbial biofilm research centres across the globe. Indeed, Paul was an exemplar leader, inventor, mentor and scientific ambassador.

Microbes are everywhere and have the unique capacity to form complex assemblages, which we recognize as microbial biofilms, on all surfaces in all natural as well as engineered systems. Their presence and actions have profound outcomes, and studying, understanding and addressing such systems are complex and require cross disciplinary skills. This is reflected by the establishment of national and international leading research centres with unique research expertise as based on the embedment of emerging disciplines and fostering novel cross-disciplinary research efforts.

Paul had unique multidisciplinary skills across engineering, biophysics, microbiology and numerous other sciences, combined with the capacity to engage and communicate science to any audience. These qualities made Paul one of the most influential thought leaders and drivers of the uptake of biofilm sciences, both nationally and internationally. This development included numerous fields, encouraged excellence in both basic and applied research, and significantly aided the development of biofilm research centers and entities of thematic scientific and educational programs now operational in many countries and organizations, both within university settings and beyond.

Paul not only shaped the biofilm field but was a wonderful and supportive colleague and friend to many. He was a thinker and a leader, and one of strongest pillars, socially and scientifically, of all biofilm conferences organized across the world. Our thoughts also go to his wife Luanne and his family, friends and lab members. Paul was a generous man and will be greatly missed.

On behalf of Paul’s colleagues and friends at the Singapore Centre for Environmental Life Sciences Engineering (SCELSE), Singapore; the National Biofilms Innovation Centre (NBIC), UK; Aarhus University Centre for Water Technology (WATEC), Denmark; and the Costerton Biofilm Center (CBC), Denmark.

Alain Filloux & Staffan Kjelleberg (SCELSE); Jeremy Webb & Jo Slater-Jefferies (NBIC); Rikke Meyer &
Tom Seviour (WATEC); Michael Givskov & Thomas Bjarnsholt (CBC).


Directors address

Bacterial biofilms and chemical biology approaches to control them have played central roles in my research for the past 25 years. I always marveled science for its international dimension, a view strongly shared with one of my main mentors Bill Costerton.

Professor Michael Givskov, Dr. Techn., Managing Director

In the 21st century, biofilms are considered the central mode of microbial life on Earth. The term “biofilm” equals a highly successful, resilient mode of bacterial life that serves to mitigate impacts of otherwise deadly external insults.  It’s a view that I strongly share(d) with my former mentor “Bill” Costerton who passed away in 2012. For billions of years, environmental bacteria have escaped annihilation by forming and living as biofilms. In fact, the biofilm mode seems to have a significant impact on a multitude of today’s infectious diseases, in particular those that show recalcitrance to antibiotic treatments regimes and recurrence. This view gains momentum in parallel with the emerging failure of the approved anti-bacterial drugs, a situation also referred to as AMR (development of antimicrobial resistance). It also gains momentum because of fundamental and translational research being done at biofilm centers around the world, including the Costerton Biofilm Center. At the “Costerton”, we seek to unravel the underlying molecular mechanisms that make single bacteria turn into highly aggregated and multi-resistant biofilms. We seek to understand how pathogenic biofilms are superior to single (planktonic cells) in evading our immune system, and how the “bad-guys” biofilms differ from their “good-guys” counterparts such as those microbiome communities with symbiotic and protective roles for our life and functioning in our organism. Furthermore, “Costerton” accommodates a chemical biology platform, by which we translate our contemporary infectious-biology research into novel anti-biofilm principles and in close collaboration with DTU-Chemistry actively develops drug candidates that can motivate the pharmaceutical industry and investors to produce new types of drugs that would support and or substitute for the ones that we are gradually loosing.

Future perspectives

While biofilms are everywhere and affect each and every facet of our lives, our understanding of how they are organized and how they function is still in its infancy. With the CBC, we wish to develop a comprehensive understanding that will allow us to understand interactions between bacteria and the human host, in healthy and diseased individuals and chemically control biofilms (as part of our novel antibiofilm drug discovery). This is done by means of cutting-edge technologies of contemporary life-science.

The Center provides a forum for scientists and clinicians and encourages research into the microbial aetiology of biofilms. By integrating translational and clinically relevant research, the Center takes lead in improved prevention and development of new treatments of diseases caused by biofilms. The research aims at explaining the riddle as to why biofilm-bacteria gain the upper hand in the fight against our immune system, and hopefully lead to new and innovative strategies for early diagnosis, treatment and prevention of chronic diseases for the benefit of public health.

Cystic fibrosis
Chronic ulcer

Bacteria are visualized by means of FISH hybridization (red) and immune cells by DAPI stain (blue). The images illustrate the common pattern in two different chronic diseases: aggregates of biofilm bacteria surrounded by numerous immune, inflammatory cells that fail to eliminate the biofilm.