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Bill Costerton – University of Copenhagen

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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. 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 differ 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 died on 12 May 2012.