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Dr Saira Khan

Dr Saira Khan

Research Associate

School of Dentistry


Several years of Microbiology and Biochemistry experience gained from the Advanced Therapies Group (ATG) in the Dental School, Cardiff University and previous industry posts at GE Healthcare and British Biocell International. During my PhD (Biochemistry) I investigated metal-ion dependent transcriptional regulation in E. coli.

The emergence of antibiotic resistant bacterial strains globally is compromising the efficacy of antibiotics and alternative therapies are urgently sought. I am interested in researching the effect of novel nanomedicines against multi-drug resistant (MDR) bacterial strains and biofilms.

I'm currently working as a Research Associate in collaboration with QBiotics Ltd, Australia, to determine the anti-biofilm properties of novel plant molecules isolated from the fruit of the indigenous Blushwood tree in the Queensland rainforest. These molecules, epoxy-tiglianes, and their semi-synthetic derivatives have been shown to be effective in the wound healing process.

I have previously carried out extensive antimicrobial susceptibility testing with a novel nanomedicine derived from seaweed, OligoG, against a diverse bacterial culture collection and clinical isolates including MDR strains. OligoG was found to potentiate the effect of several classes of antibiotics against important MDR pathogens such as Pseudomonas, Acinetobacter and Burkholderia spp. This work was done in collaboration with AligPharma AS, Norway. The project “A drug developed from seaweed that helps fight off infection” won Cardiff University’s Medical Impact & Innovation Award, 2017

Advanced Therapies Group                                                                                                                                                                 Oral and Biomedical Sciences                                                                                                                                                           School of Dentistry                                                                                                                                                                            Cardiff University                                                                                                                                                                                 Heath Park                                                                                                                                                                                 Cardiff                                                                                                                                                                                                CF14 4XY

Telephone: +44(0)2920 745454                                                                                                                                               Email:


Cardiff University School of Dentistry

Research Associate                                                                                                                             October 2018 - Current

Characterisation of novel therapeutics (EBCs) for the treatment of multi-drug resistant wound infections, QBiotics Ltd. Studied the effect of novel plant antimicrobials on the permeabilisation of Gram-negative and Gram-positive bacteria. MICs and growth effects of EBCs on anaerobic bacteria. I also continued my work with an alginate oligosaccharide (OligoG) and its effect on invasion of Candida albicans.

Research Associate                                                                                                                                                 2007 - 2014

Investigating a novel alginate oligosaccharide, OligoG, for use in the treatment of multi-drug resistant bacterial infections its ability to physically disrupt developing biofilms of clinically important bacterial species.

British Biocell International                                                                                                                                         2006 - 2007

R & D Scientist   

Involved in the development of a lateral flow cancer diagnostic test for detecting an elevated nuclear membrane protein, optimising with the HeLa cell line. Led to the manufacture of 30K size batches of the cancer diagnostic tests for use in clinical trials.

GE Healthcare

Process Development Scientist                                                                                                                                  2005 - 2006

Trouble-shooting and process improvement planning. Development of a competitive enzyme immunoassay (EIA) for detecting cAMP in serum or tissue samples using luminescence to replace colourimetric testing. This involved antibody coating of 96-well plates, optimising and performing numerous stringency tests with a luminescent substrate. Also, validating nucleotides from a new supplier for use in a number of Molecular Biology commercial kits. The nucleotides were used to manufacture components for each kit and checked by rigorous QC testing.


School of Biosciences, Cardiff University, Museum Avenue, Cardiff, CF10 3US.

PhD   Metal-ion dependent transcriptional regulation in E. coli                                                   

The primary zinc exporter in E. coli, ZntA, is under the control of a zinc-responsive transcriptional regulator, ZntR. The structure-function relationship of ZntR was studied by site-directed mutagenesis of candidate metal-binding amino acids followed by phenotypic analysis to define the previously unknown metal-binding residues. The global effect of ZntR was studied by means of macroarrays using RNA extracted from a w.t. E. coli strain and a ZntR knockout strain grown at normal and elevated zinc concentrations.










I have taught MSc and PhD students standard lab practices and experimental techniques. During my PhD I supervised Biochemistry, Dentistry and Medicine undergraduates in biochemistry laboratory practicals and marked and graded practical write-ups. Provided one-to-one guidance and supervision to BSc undergraduates for their final year research projects.

Practical experience of bacterial biofilm research. Utilised various methods in order to study bacterial membrane permeabilisation such as the Sytox Green assays for investigating the effect of novel plant antimicrobials known as epoxy-tiglianes (QBiotics Ltd) on the permeabilisation of Gram negative and positive bacteria. Optimised a method to investigate the effect of epoxy-tiglianes on the growth kinetics of P. gingivalis maintaining an anaerobic environment in a 96-well plate. EBC-46 and EBC-1013 are epoxy-tiglianes which are effective in reducing the growth of a range of bacteria with implications for wound healing and peri-implantitis.

Setting up and maintaining biofilms on various materials and studying the effect of antibiotics and OligoG on their ability to physically disrupt developed and developing biofilms of clinically important bacterial species. Treated biofilms were assessed with growth studies and LIVE/DEAD staining and microscopy. OligoG demonstrated an ability to potentiate antibiotics against a variety of MDR pathogens and inhibit biofilm formation. This has contributed to its transition into Phase IIb clinical trials. The work to optimise delivery of OligoG as an inhalation therapy for patients with cystic fibrosis and for the treatment of life-threatening infections with MDR bacteria is ongoing.

I have collaborated with internal and external networks to enhance the research activities of the school. Internally, I collected bacterial isolates from the School of Medicine and had meetings to discuss research techniques. Externally, I collaborated with the Centre for Nanohealth, College of Medicine, Swansea University to study the effect of alginate oligosaccharides on the mechanical properties of Gram-negative biofilms.


PhD Students

  • Project supervision of PhD students within ATG.

MSc Implantology 

  • Supervised and guided MSc Implantology students in their narrative and systematic review projects
    • N. Kapur (Distinction, 2020): A literature review to evaluate the microflora of peri-implant disease in humans
    • Z. Faiz (Merit, 2020): A narrative review on the use of antibiotics and antimicrobials in periodontology and implantology
    • S. Geltsen (Distinction, 2020): Essential oils as antimicrobial therapies in implantology and periodontology: a systematic review and meta-analysis
  • Exam standard setting 2020
  • Supervision of lab based projects 
    • L. Platsas (2013)
    • G. Michailidis (2010)