If you study biofilms, you have almost certainly come across research published by the Center for Biofilm Engineering (CBE). The center has been a major biofilm research contributor and educator for more than 25 years, and the laboratory groups that call it home have collectively put out more than 1000 publications. They are one of the industry’s largest groups of biofilm researchers, with 70+ faculty and staff, 50 graduate students, and a small army of undergraduates.
     The Center for Biofilm Engineering (originally titled the Center for Interfacial Microbial Process Engineering) was founded by Bill Characklis in 1990 at Montana State University. After spending years developing plans for the center, Dr. Characklis was able to see through the acceptance of the CBE’s initial grant in 1992 from the NSF, totaling $7.5 million, and passed away shortly thereafter. Since then, the CBE has had 3 other directors: Bill Costerton (1992-2004), Phil Stewart (2004-2015), and Matthew Fields (2015-Present).
     The Center for Biofilm Engineering currently (as of April 2016) has four major lab groups, and many smaller groups outside of the facility. The Ecology and Physiology Laboratory – led by Director Matthew Fields – houses a large variety of general microbiology equipment and a range of different research topics. The Medical Biofilm Laboratory (MBL) is a quick moving research group centered around current healthcare-related biofilms. The Standardized Biofilm Methods Laboratory (SBML) primarily focuses on developing quantitative methods for studying biofilms, and works directly with many different industries and research groups to accomplish their goals. Finally, the Microbial Ecology and Biogeochemistry Laboratory study how biofilms and larger ecosystems can effect each other. Each of these labs has a variety of researchers and students that focus on many different projects at any given time.
     Funding for the Center for Biofilm Engineering comes in several forms. Many grants are awarded from organizations including the DoE, EPA, NSF, NIH, NASA, INL, and the State of Montana, which allow the center to perform much of its general biofilm research ($3 million in 2014-2015). The other major source of funding comes from the CBE’s industrial associate program, which costs an annual fee and allows members access to CBE facilities, staff, and functions.
     The Center for Biofilm Engineering has been a key source of biofilm research for the last 25 years. Many of Biosurface Technologies’ products were conceived by CBE researchers, and much of the initial design work and testing was done in partnership with them. Without the CBE, standard biofilm reactors and standardized methods would likely not have been developed. They have shaped and defined biofilm research in every way, and we at Biosurface Technologies’ hope that they continue to be industry and research leaders for decades more!

Related Links

CBE website

CBE Faculty and Staff

CBE Publications Database

CBE Industry Program Info

2016 CBE Publications (as of April, 2016):

Espinosa-Ortiz EJ, Pechaud Y, Lauchnor E, Rene ER, Gerlach R, Peyton BM, van Hullebusch ED, Lens PN, “Effect of selenite on the morphology and respiratory activity of Phanerochaete chrysosporium biofilms,” Bioresour Technol. 2016; Feb 26.

Moberly J, D’Imperio S, Parker A, Peyton B, “Microbial community signature in Lake Coeur dAlene: Association of environmental variables and toxic heavy metal phases,” Applied Geochemistry 2016 March, 66: 174–183.

Keil D, Buck B, Goossens D, Teng Y, Leetham M, Murphy L, Pollard J, Eggers M, McLaurin B, Gerads R, DeWitt J, “Immunotoxicological and neurotoxicological profile of health effects following subacute exposure to geogenic dust from sand dunes at the Nellis Dunes Recreation Area, Las Vegas, NV,” Toxicol Appl Pharmacol. 2016 Jan 15; 291:1-12.

Figueroa LO, Pitts B, Uchida M, Richards AM, “Vesicle self-assembly of amphiphilic siderophores produced by bacterial isolates from Soap Lake, Washington,” Can. J. Chem. 2016; 94(1):35-43.