Academic Staff Spotlight
Academic Staff Spotlight - Dr. Tara Vollmerhausen
Our Spotlight on the Academic Staff working in the Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences and Biotechnology this month features Dr. Tara Vollmerhausen.
Tara conducted her undergraduate studies and PhD at the University of the Sunshine Coast, Australia. Her PhD thesis investigated the molecular mechanisms of E. coli pathogenesis in septicaemia and urosepsis. In 2011 she joined the Annelie Brauner Group, Department of Microbiology, Tumor and Cell Biology, Karolinska Institute, Sweden as a Visiting Researcher to investigate new strategies to treat UTIs and biofilm-associated infections. Certain subpopulations, such as postmenopausal women, are more susceptible to UTIs. Using cell culture systems and molecular techniques, she investigated mechanisms in the host-pathogen interaction which may contribute to post-menopausal women experiencing more recurrent UTIs. She then took up a post as a Postdoctoral Researcher at NUI Galway in 2014 with the National Centre for Laser Applications to investigate the feasibility of using UVA light to prevent biofilm formation on medical devices. This industry-focused project worked alongside Teleflex to develop novel side-emitting optical fibres to deliver light into medical devices for antimicrobial applications. In 2015 she then was awarded a Government of Ireland Postdoctoral Fellowship from the Irish Research Council to continue her research in the elucidation of the molecular mechanism behind blue light inactivation of biofilms. She worked alongside Professor Conor O’Bryne as part of the Bacterial Stress Response Group at NUIG. Tara later joined a start-up biopharmaceutical company developing novel antimicrobials to treat animal and human infections. Here she was involved in optimising and commercialising an innovative Long Acting Reactive Species technology to treat bovine mastitis. Her research goals are directed towards developing novel strategies to treat and prevent biofilm-associated infections. The emergence of antibiotic resistance limits the effectiveness of traditional antibiotic therapy. Furthermore, infections that involve biofilms are inherently more tolerant to antimicrobial treatment. There is an urgent need to develop novel antimicrobials to help address the current rise of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
RESEARCH AREAS OF INTEREST
Novel antimicrobials and mechanisms to treat biofilm; Mechanism to prevent the emergence of antibiotic resistance; Pathogenesis of Escherichia coli in extraintestinal infections; Blue light sensing in E. coli.
CURRENT RESEARCH PROJECTS
The use of ROS to prevent the emergence of antibiotic resistance; Mechanisms to enhance the antimicrobial activity of blue light.
Applied Genetic Engineering; Research and Product Development; Regulatory Affairs; Innovation and Entrepreneurship; Biology; IT for Scientists. Tara teaches modules across the following undergraduate programmes at TUS: Pharmacology; Biotechnology; Pharmaceutical Sciences and Bioveterinary Science.
MEMBERSHIP OF PROFESSIONAL BODIES
TOP RESEARCH PUBLICATIONS
1. Somorin, Y.M., Vollmerhausen, T., Waters, N., Pritchard, L., Abram, F., Brennan, F. and O’Byrne, C. (2018) Absence of curli in soil-persistent Escherichia coli is mediated by a C-di-GMP signaling defect and suggests evidence of biofilm-independent niche specialization. Frontiers in Microbiology, 22 (9:1340), pp.1-13.
2. Vollmerhausen, T.L., Conneely. A., Bennett, C., Wagner, V.E., Victor, J.C. and O’Byrne, C.P. (2017) Visible and UVA light as a potential means of preventing Escherichia coli biofilm formation in urine and on materials used in urethral catheters. Journal of Photochemistry and Photobiology B, 170, pp.295-303.
3. Vollmerhausen, T.L., Woods, J.L., Faoagali, J. and Katouli, M. (2014) Interactions of uroseptic Escherichia coli with renal (A-498) and gastrointestinal (HT-29) cell lines. Journal of Medical Microbiology, 63 (Pt 12), pp.1575-1583.
4. Vollmerhausen, T.L., Ramos, N.L., Gündoğdu, A., Robinson, W., Brauner, A. and Katouli, M. (2011) Population structure and uropathogenic virulence-associated genes of faecal Escherichia coli from healthy young and elderly adults. Journal of Medical Microbiology, 60 (Pt5), pp.574-581.