In this webinar, our experts will highlight recent efforts involving knowledge developed from study of the preterm infant, a clean slate upon which a healthy microbiome is developed;  the impact for oral health as we mature; & an industry perspective as it relates to research tools and resources.


Camilia R. Martin, M.D., M.S.
Assistant Professor of Pediatrics
Harvard Medical School

Floyd E. Dewhirst
Senior Member of Staff
Department of Microbiology
The Forsyth Institute


Sasha Vlassov
Senior Staff Scientist, Group Leader
Thermo Fisher Scientific


Howard Young, Ph.D.
Deputy Chief
NCI Laboratory of Experimental Immunology

Winston Kuo DMSc
IES Diagnostics


The human body is host to trillions of microbes, forming the microbiome that is found on the skin, in the oral cavity and gut. The microbiota are partially responsible for maintaining a healthy ecological community, but can also contribute to disease when an imbalance of microbes occurs.

The emerging field of metagenomics, as a result of technological advancement in DNA sequencing and reduction in sequencing costs, has fueled research in how microbes across the human body play a role in human health and disease including cancer, fat malabsorption, heart disease, obesity, oral infectious diseases, and inflammatory bowel disease and in mouse models, autism, diabetes and multiple sclerosis.

The body's flora represents a key area of research interest, as it relates to immunology, nutrition/digestion, among other crucial aspects of human health. The recently formed NIH Common Fund Human Microbiome Project has been instrumental in providing research resources that enable the comprehensive characterization of the human microbiota. The project creates a pipeline for personalized medicine that is not based on our human genes, in which we are all 99.9 percent identical, but based on our microbial genes, where we can be 90 percent different from one another.

Dr. Martin's Abstract:

The Establishment of the Early Microbiome in Neonates:
Determinants, Risks, & Therapeutics

Though once thought to be a sterile environment, the in-utero environment is exposed to the maternal microbiome which may subsequently determine the timing of labor and early fetal colonization.

After birth the diet, environment, and medication exposures further direct the microbiome defining patterns that influence  the balance between health and disease. In the preterm infant, this includes necrotizing enterocolitis, lung disease and sepsis. In later infancy and childhood the microbiome has been linked to asthma, celiac disease, diabetes, and obesity.

Early strategies in manipulating the microbiome have the potential to optimize immune ontogeny in the preterm infant residing in a high-risk environment and reduce the likelihood of acute and long-term morbidities.

Dr. Martin will address these concepts, as well as the role of the microbiome/organisms in labor and risk of  premature delivery, formula vs breast milk , h2 blockers and antibiotics, infant colonization patterns, and the linkage of the microbiome to asthma, celiac disease, diabetes, and obesity.

Dr. Dewhirst 's Abstract:

The Human Oral Microbiome

The human oral microbiome has been extensively characterized.  Of the 700 most prevalent endogenous oral bacterial species, 50% have been formally named, 65% have been cultivated and 53% have genome sequences.  Taxonomic and genomic information for oral bacteria is available on the Human Oral Microbiome Database (

The site includes BLAST and genome visualization tools.  The oral cavity has several diverse ecological niches including: subgingival, supergingival, attached gingiva, tongue dorsum, cheek, palate, tonsils, throat and saliva.  The bacteria in each niche are distinct from one another.

Topological extensions of the oral cavity colonized by components of the oral microbiome include the middle ear, the sinuses, and even the lungs.  The oral microbiome participates in many oral diseases including caries, periodontitis, Strep throat, tonsillitis, middle ear infections and aspiration pneumonia.  The oral microbiome contributes to systemic diseases such as bacterial endocarditis, stroke, preterm birth & low birth weight.  Saliva, with a mix of microbial and host markers is an outstanding diagnostic fluid.  

Probiotics and microbial replacement therapy are being examined as potential methods for treating oral and systemic diseases.

Kissing exchanges oral bacteria and makes your microbiome more similar to that of your partner.

Dr. Vlassov’s Abstract: 

The presentation will describe the workflows and latest tools for human microbiome research, including sample collection, storage, isolation of microbial DNA or RNA, sequencing and subsequent data analysis.

Dr. Camilia Martin’s research interests are focused in neonatal nutrition and its impact on health and disease in the preterm infant. She has participated in multi-site clinical trials serving as the Principal Investigator at BIDMC, evaluating growth and long-term neurodevelopmental outcomes in the extremely preterm infant.

In 2009, Dr. Martin received a Harvard Catalyst Faculty Fellowship Award facilitating her transition from general epidemiology to translational research. Her current research focus is on fat and fatty acid metabolism, postnatal intestinal adaptation including the microbiome, development of immune defenses, and regulation of the inflammation. In September 2014, Dr. Martin was awarded an R01 grant from NIDDK to examine the “Impact of fatty acid imbalance in intestinal health and disease in prematurity”.

Dr. Martin received her M.D. from Cornell University School of Medicine in 1992 and completed her internship and residency at Children’s Memorial Hospital/Northwestern School of Medicine in 1995 where she also served as Chief Pediatric Resident in 1996. Dr. Martin completed her fellowship in Perinatal-Neonatal Medicine at the Harvard Combined Program in Neonatology in 1999. During her fellowship training, she completed a Masters in Epidemiology at Harvard School of Public Health in 1998.

In addition to her role at the Harvard Medical School, she is Associate Director of the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit and the Director for Cross-Disciplinary Research Partnerships, Division of Translational Research, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC)

Dr. Floyd Dewhirst received a DDS from University of California at San Francisco in 1973 and PhD in pharmacology from the University of Rochester in 1979.  Since the late 1980s, his research has focused on defining the human oral microbiome.  

His research group created the Human Oral Microbiome Database (HOMD) to provide web accessible taxonomic and genomic information and tools ( to the research community. He has worked to identified isolates of previously uncultivated oral taxa and has deposited over 150 isolates into publically available culture collections.  His research group has cultured and produced DNA from over 200 human oral bacteria as part of the Human Microbiome Project reference genome sequencing effort.

Dr. Alexander “Sasha” Vlassov has developed multiple product lines including reagents for exosome research, siRNA, miRNA mimics/inhibitors, and transfection reagents. Currently, he is focusing on development of advanced technologies for microbiota research and improved methods for extracting nucleic acids from clinically relevant samples. Prior to joining Life Technologies (now part of Thermo Fisher Scientific), he was a Sr. Scientist at Somagenics (California), Postdoctoral fellow at UC Boulder (Colorado), visiting student fellow at the IBMC (France) and research scientist at ICBFM (Russia). During his scientific career, Dr. Vlassov co-authored over 70 publications and 8 patents.

Dr. Howard Young received his PhD from the Department of Microbiology and Immunology at the University of Washington and did postdoctoral research under Drs. Edward Scolnick and Wade Parks at the National Cancer Institute.  He joined the National Cancer Institute in 1983 and became Deputy Chief of the NCI Laboratory of Experimental Immunology in 2006.

His research has focused on the analysis of cytokine gene expression and signaling with a special emphasis on the molecular characterization of the transcriptional and posttranscriptional regulation regulation of Interferon-g in NK cells.  

Most recently, his laboratory has developed novel mouse models of lupus and aplastic anemia based on chronic expression of low levels of this important immunoregulatory molecule in the murine C57BL/6 genetic background and the Balb/c genetic background, respectively. He is also collaborating with a laboratory in Malaysia on the development of probiotic microorganisms as carriers for vaccine delivery systems.  

Dr. Young is a former President of the International Society for Interferon and Cytokine Research and is a co-recipient (with Dr. Sidney Pestka) of the first Distinguished Service Award from the ISICR, is a two time recipient of the National Cancer Institute Director’s Award for Mentoring and is a recipient of the National Public Service Award from the American Society for Public Administration and the National Academy of Public Administration.  

He has also served as Chair of the Immunology Division of the American Society for Microbiology, Chair of the NIH Immunology Interest Group and Cytokine Interest Group and is a member of the American Academy of Microbiology.

Winston Kuo is the founder of Harvard Medical School’s Laboratory for Innovative Translational Technologies, which was an integral part of the Clinical and Translational Science Award program, Dr. Kuo has founded and supported many programs that spur biomedical research.

He initiated and participated with the FDA in a large-scale comprehensive study evaluating the clinical utility of gene expression technologies, published in Nature Biotechnology (July 2006). He sits on the NIH/SBIR grant review study section and is a peer reviewer for the Qatar National Research Fund.

Dr. Kuo's clinical and translational initiatives have expanded globally in developing countries such as Brazil, China, Mongolia, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia and South Africa, focusing upon accelerating understanding of mechanisms that affect human disease; catalyzing the identification and development of useful biomarkers; and speeding the development of therapeutics in patients. Dr. Kuo has also instructed in the Innovation for Economic Development program at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government.

Dr. Kuo is a founder and Trustee of the Otto Heinrich Warburg Cancer Research Foundation.

He sits on the editorial boards of multiple peer reviewed journals, and is Editor-in Chief of the Journal of Circulating Biomarkers and NanoBioMedicine (both of which he founded). He has consulted with the NIH on interdisciplinary outreach, and sits on a number business and nonprofit Scientific Advisory Boards, including the BioPharma Research Council.

He received is Doctor of Medical Sciences (DMSc), Oral and Computational Biology from Harvard Medical School.