Headshot photo of Justin L. Merritt, Ph.D.

Justin L. Merritt, Ph.D.

  • Professor of Restorative Dentistry, School of Dentistry
  • Biomedical Engineering Graduate Program, School of Medicine
  • Molecular Microbiology and Immunology, School of Medicine


Research in the Merritt laboratory focuses upon the molecular and cellular microbiology of the human oral microbiome to understand how mucosal health is regulated in the human body. Currently, few efficacious treatment options are available to mitigate the many types of chronic diseases triggered by mucosal dysbiosis, such as oral diseases, irritable bowel disease, urogenital tract infections, chronic lung infections, etc. Mucosal dysbiosis is also increasingly associated with the development of a variety of different cancers, with many tumors being stably colonized by various microbiome species. The treatment of dysbiotic diseases poses a unique challenge because the few microbiome species associated with pathology naturally live amongst a plethora of other beneficial microbes within mixed communities. Ultimately, effective therapeutic solutions will require a much deeper understanding of microbiome ecology and its impact upon the host response.

Projects in the Merritt Lab encompass a wide range of topics including clinical microbiology, bacterial genetics, protein biochemistry/structure, and infection biology. Mechanistic studies of microbiome pathobiology are primarily investigated using bacterial strains isolated directly from clinical specimens obtained from OHSU dental clinics. Key interests encompass various aspects of bacterial and host genetics as well as mechanisms of microbiome polymicrobial synergistic pathogenesis and associated immunopathology.

For additional information: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/myncbi/justin.merritt.1/bibliography/public

Education and training

    • B.S., 1997, University of Miami
    • Ph.D., 2004, University of California Los Angeles
  • Fellowship

    • NIH Pre-IRTA Fellowship 1997-1999

Memberships and associations:

  • American Association of Dental Research Science Information Committee
  • International Association for Dental Research (IADR) & American Association for Dental Research (AADR)
  • American Society for Microbiology (ASM)
  • Standing member of the NIH Oral, Dental, and Craniofacial Sciences (ODCS) study section

Areas of interest

  • Dentistry
  • Microbiome
  • Symbiosis and Dysbiosis
  • Biofilm
  • Bacterial Genetics

Honors and awards

  • 2019 OHSU Faculty Senate Award for Research
  • 2018 recipient of the NIDCR SOAR Award R35



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