Marcelo Freire is an associate professor in the Genomic Medicine and Infectious Disease Department at the J. Craig Venter Institute (JCVI). Prior to joining JCVI, Dr. Freire was an assistant faculty member at The Forsyth Institute and Harvard University (Division of Oral Medicine, Infection and Immunity). Early in his career, he worked on tissue biology of infectious diseases, biofilm-induced bone diseases and antibody engineering. As a dual-scientist and clinician/surgeon, Dr. Freire’s initial training provided insights in human physiology and unmet clinical needs.
In this interview, Marcelo talks about how bacteria, viruses, and other organisms in the mouth can often travel to other body sites to drive chronic symptoms. These areas include the heart and surgical implants, where they can form into biofilm communities that communicate via shared signaling (quorum sensing). He also discusses how the mouth, which is continually exposed to organisms from the outside world, is an excellent body site in which to study host/pathogen/immune interactions. In fact, saliva samples can be used to easily obtain valuable data on organisms, immune cell activity, and gene expression changes that can influence system-wide disease processes. Importantly, Marcelo explains that he wants to create a wearable oral biosensor that can capture key molecular measurables associated with oral health, and send them regularly to a patients’ phone. The personalized data captured by the biosensor could provide key data that would allow for early-stage monitoring and prevention of chronic symptoms tied to the influx of oral-derived pathogens in other body sites.
Marcelo also believes that science and medicine must move forward in an increasingly collective fashion. He talks about how the COVID-19 has made it extra clear that separated research teams must share information and data if we hope to truly advance human health.