Speakers 2017

Prof. Dr. Egija Zaura
Professor Oral Microbial Ecology at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam and at the Academic Centre for Dentistry Amsterdam (ACTA), the Netherlands

Dr. Egija Zaura is University Research Chair Professor in Oral Microbial Ecology at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam and at the Department of Preventive Dentistry at the Academic Centre for Dentistry Amsterdam (ACTA), VU Amsterdam and University of Amsterdam, the Netherlands. She obtained her Dental degree in 1995 at Karolinska Institute, Sweden. After graduation, Egija combined her work in the dental clinic in Riga with accomplishing a degree in General Dentistry at Riga Stradins University, Latvia, in 1997. In 2002, she acquired a PhD in Preventive Dentistry, cum laude, at ACTA. Her research topics span from biofilm models and clinical studies to advanced molecular technologies in oral microbial diagnostics and complex sequencing data analyses. Her current principal interests lay on oral microbial ecology at health and disease, and translating this fundamental knowledge to the clinical practice.

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Dr. Laura Weyrich
Postdoctoral Researcher at Australian Center for Ancient DNA, University of Adelaide, Australia

Dr. Weyrich obtained a PhD from The Penn State University in 2012, after receiving a National Science Foundation PDRA Fellowship to understand how commensal microorganisms contribute to infectious diseases. In addition to immunological and medical research, she also developed a Dual-PhD program for biological scientists to learn and practice Bioethics. In 2012, she began a post-doctoral research appointment at the University of Adelaide, in the Australian Center for Ancient DNA. Using her medical expertise, she helped establish calcified dental plaque (calculus) as the only fossil record of human microbiota in existence, and linked ancient and historic changes in human microbial communities to large shifts in health and disease. She has since reconstructed the microbiome from Neandertals, and was the first person to reconstruct a microbiome from an extinct species. In 2015, Dr. Weyrich obtained a prestigious Australian Research Council DECRA fellowship, aimed at reconstructing the diversity of human microbiota around the world and its links to disease, especially in Indigenous people. For her research, she has received over 15 awards for research excellence, collected dental calculus samples from five continents, and given over 40 guest lectures on the topic. Her research has been featured by the BBC, NPR, USA Today, The Atlantic, The Washington Post, New Scientist, and National Geographic, and has been highlighted on TV and in a documentary entitled “Life on Us.” Her research has even had a Buzz Feed quiz written about it. Her commitment to understanding how commensal microorganisms contribute to disease, and how they shape the world around us, is changing how we view human health today.

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Dr. Eldin Jasarevic
Postdoctoral Fellow, Department of Biomedical Sciences, Center for Host-Microbial Interactions, School of Veterinary Medicine, University of Pennsylvania, USA

Dr. Eldin Jasarevic received his PhD in Neuroscience at the University of Missouri and the Thompson Center for Autism and Neurodevelopmental Disorders studying the combined effect of maternal stress and diet on sex-specific brain development using mouse models of prenatal stress. Currently, he is a postdoctoral fellow in the lab of Dr. Tracy Bale at the University of Pennsylvania. Ongoing research focuses on leveraging methods from neuroscience, microbiology, genomics, and computational biology to identify novel mechanisms of transgenerational transmission whereby the offspring brain is reprogrammed. Using rodent models of maternal stress experience during pregnancy, his work highlights a causal involvement of the maternal bacterial microbiome and virome on the developing gut-immune-brain axis in offspring and subsequent neuropsychiatric and gastrointestinal disease risk in adulthood. He is a recipient of several awards including selection as a Kavli Fellow of the National Academy of Sciences.

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Dr. Leonides Fernández
Associate Professor at Universidad Complutense de Madrid, Spain

Dr. Leonides Fernández is working as an Associate Professor at the Department of Food Science and Technology at Universidad Complutense de Madrid, Spain. She received her PhD degree in Science in 1984 at the Universidad Autónoma de Madrid, Spain. Over the last 20 years, her main research focus has been to study the microbiota of breast milk, including its origin, characterization in physiological conditions, role in the colonization of the infant gut and impact in mother-child health. Her efforts have been focused on the selection of probiotics for diverse applications in the perinatal period for both the mother and the infant.

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Prof. Dr. James Goedert
Physician and Clinical Epidemiologist at the National Cancer Institute, USA

Dr. James Goedert, M.D., is a Board Certified specialist in Internal Medicine and Medical Oncology. He received a B.A. in Psycology at Yale University, an M.D. at the Stritch School of Medicine, Loyola University Chicago and postgraduate medical training at Georgetown University Hospital. For the next 36 years at the National Cancer Institute (NCI), National Institutes of Health, he led teams focused on the epidemiology of infection-associated malignancies and he was Chief of the Viral Epidemiology Branch in the NCI Division of Cancer Epidemiolgy and Genetics (DCEG). In 2016, he retired from NCI, but he is continuing his research as a Special Volunteer with DCEG, and his medical practice with the Ignatian Volunteer Corps and the Anchor Mental Health and Spanish Catholic Center medical clinics in Washington, DC. In the first decade of the AIDS epidemic, Dr. Goedert identified major modes of HIV transmission and described the natural history of infection across different groups in the U.S. In 2006, he expanded his research to include alterations of the gut microbiota as it relates to cancer and other conditions. His studies of men and especially of postmenopausal women have provided new insights on how gut microbiota alterations affect systemic levels of estrogens, estrogen metabolites, and potentially breast cancer. In recognition of his outstanding research, Dr. Goedert has received numerous awards, including the International AIDS Society's International LIFE Prize for his study of twins born to HIV-1-infected mothers and the Outstanding Service Medal from the U.S. Public Health Service.

National Cancer Institute
Dr. Johanna Holm
Postdoctoral Fellow, Department of Microbiology & Immunology, University of Maryland Baltimore, School of Medicine, Institute for Genome Sciences, USA

Dr. Johanna Holm is a Postdoctoral Fellow in the laboratories of Dr. Jacques Ravel and Dr. Rebecca Brotman at the University of Maryland Baltimore School of Medicine in the Institute for Genome Sciences. She earned her Ph.D. from the University of Southern California studying host-microbe interactions of soft corals using both microbial profiling via amplicon sequencing, and microscopy. Currently, she is studying the roles of the vaginal microbiota in response to a range of stimuli including exposure to sexually transmitted infections, pre-term delivery, vitamin D supplementation, and hormonal contraception. Utilizing both 16S rRNA gene amplicon sequencing and metagenomics, Dr. Holm is seeking to identify key microbial biomarkers which can be leveraged to develop targeted, personalized, and antibiotic-sparing therapies for the improvement of women’s reproductive health.

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Prof. Dr. Reet Mändar
Professor of Medical Microbiology Ecology at University of Tartu, Estonia; Project leader at Competence Centre on Health Technologies, Tartu, Estonia

Dr. Reet Mändar graduated from the University of Tartu in 1988 as physician and obtained her PhD degree in 1996. Main topics of her research include the female genital tract microbiota and its transmission to the newborn, the role of both partners’ genital tract microbiota and health biomarkers in couple infertility, etiopathogenesis of chronic prostatitis, reproductive function in middle-aged men, etiopathogenesis of peritonsillar abscess, apical and marginal periodontitis, microbiota in obese patients and its changes after bariatric surgery, and the human lactoflora and development of lactobacillar probiotics. She has conducted several projects including grants of Estonian Science Foundation, Institutional Target Financing, and EU 6 FP project. She is head of the Human Microbiota Biobank at the University of Tartu and coordinator of the Estonian Electronic Microbial dataBase.

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Prof. Dr. Jeremy Burton
Professor in Urology at Western University in London, Ontario; Deputy Director of the Canadian Centre for Human Microbiome and Probiotics, Canada

Dr. Jeremy Burton is a graduate of the University of Otago in New Zealand. He currently holds the Miriam Burnett Chair in Urological Sciences within the Division of Urology, Department of Surgery and is cross-appointed to the Department of Microbiology and Immunology at the University of Western Ontario (Western University) in London, Ontario. His interests include; how the microbiome influences urological conditions and what modulates the microbiota, such as diet, disease, treatment and the use of antibiotics. His entire research career has focused upon the relationship of commensal bacteria to human health.

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