Tina Leeb

Processes: Optimisation and Solutions

“Microbiology and the development of medical products go hand in hand”

Tina Leeb is an expert in microbiology. For the past three years, the experienced microbiologist has conducted research in product development for Lohmann & Rauscher and has helped to build the company’s own competence centre for biofilm. In our interview, she explains the unique characteristics of biofilm, the connection between medical products and microbiology, and what inspires her in her work.

You are a microbiologist working for a manufacturer of medical products. How does this branch of life sciences relate to the development of such products?

Tina Leeb: As a matter of fact, microbiology plays a large and important role in the development and production of medical products. Here the focus lies in ensuring the best possible patient treatment based on reliable microbiological integrity paired with optimal materials and product design. If pathogenic microorganisms spread across our medical products, they will keep us from achieving our goal of helping and curing people. My job is to design products in such a way that further infections can be avoided, for example, through antimicrobial equipment.

At the Lohmann & Rauscher site in Schönau, Austria, you have a well-equipped microbiology laboratory. There your research focuses on biofilm. How would you best describe biofilm?

Leeb: I always like to describe Biofilm as a consolidation of microorganisms. However, since biofilm does not always behave or look the same, it is difficult to define it in general. In a chronic wound, for example, biofilm consists of many small aggregates that are invisible to the naked eye. But to obtain the required microscopic evidence, the patient has to undergo a biopsy. As this is hardly tolerable for them, we continue our research to understand biofilm.

Your laboratory is part of Lohmann & Rauscher’s specially founded “Biofilm” competence centre. What makes research in this area so important?

Leeb: Unfortunately, there is still a big gap between bench and bedside. This is why we are currently focusing on creating methods that help us to reflect the actual situation. The problem is that only one per cent of all bacteria can be cultivated using conventional methods. In addition, biofilm cultivated using laboratory methods often does not correspond to that which is found in chronic wounds. Another aspect is that fungi and/or viruses are often involved in the formation of biofilm, but research still seldomly takes these into account. Apart from that, biofilm differs from wound to wound, and from person to person. So, you see that this research field is incredibly diverse and infinitely large.

Your research area is very complex, and it carries a lot of responsibility. What motivates you to do this type of work?

Leeb: The greatest reward for my work is seeing how medical products help people, and to witness how quickly and easily such products can improve a patient’s life. Even seemingly simple products often have a big influence on a person’s quality of life. This motivates me every day to continue my research on biofilm, and to keep developing products that simplify the treatment of wounds and promote wound healing.

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