Professor Staffan Kjelleberg


Professor Staffan Kjelleberg is the founding director of the Singapore Centre for Environmental Life Sciences Engineering (SCELSE), a national Research Centre of Excellence hosted by Nanyang Technological University (NTU), Singapore and the University of Singapore, focusing on discovering, controlling and directing the behaviour of microbial biofilm communities and microbiomes for sustainable environmental, engineering, public health and medical applications. He also directs the Singapore National Biofilm Consortium, which fosters significant interactions and close collaborations among IHLs, research institutes, government agencies and industry in Singapore. Kjelleberg is a Distinguished University Professor at NTU.

During his leadership at both UNSW and SCELSE, Professor Kjelleberg focused on comprehensively understanding microbial biofilm behaviour in multiple settings. He has, over the past three decades, adopted a progressive and novel strategy for unravelling biofilm mechanisms and developing disruptive technologies, including extra- and intra-cellular signalling communication and regulation, and biofilm differentiation and development. This approach is based on the ecological and evolutionary traits that bacteria employ to persist and thrive in all environments, which involves two fundamental aspects. Firstly, interactions among co-occurring species living with biofilm communities, and secondly, the emergent properties of the biofilm matrix understand the role matrix exopolymers play in the biology, structure and function of microbial biofilms.

Owing to the commonality of microbial biofilms in all systems, Kjelleberg’s research crosses multiple fields, enabling inroads into addressing challenges in public health and medicine, urban and environmental sustainability, and environmental engineering. Notably, Kjelleberg’s strategy accommodates both the biofilm mode and multi-species communities to understand microbial life in natural settings, and has provided significant breakthroughs of scientific and societal value, such as countering the failing efficacy of traditional antibiotics and growing antimicrobial resistance in all settings. Moreover, his emphasis on unravelling biofilm emergent properties has now also identified specific aspects of the biofilm matrix as significant targets for biofilm control.

Collaborations with UNSW involve marine holobiont biology, World Harbour Project, coastal sediment microbiomes, all of which is underpinned by a strong emphasis on ecological theory applied to both macro and microorganisms; as well as the micro-evolution of biofilm cells in response to stressors such as antimicrobials and pollutants; and the identification and development of novel bioactives.