The Networks of Centres of Excellence (NCE) recently announced its continued support in Canadian glycomics research with a three-year investment of $16.3 million through the Canadian Glycomics Network (GlycoNet). Founded in 2015, GlycoNet has been working to develop a multidisciplinary and collaborative national network to accelerate carbohydrate-based healthcare treatments, vaccines, and technologies for Canadians. These efforts have resulted in a potential vaccine candidate and a urine test for tuberculosis, therapeutic treatments for aspergillosis, as well as diagnostics for Parkinson’s disease. More recently, efforts are focused on COVID-19 with the development of drugs and vaccines.
It is an exciting time to work in the field of glycoscience. I would like to thank the NCE for its continued confidence in the Network. We are unique in what we do. Our research focuses on the roles of carbohydrates in human health, and we use this knowledge to discover new drugs, vaccines, and diagnostics for a variety of major diseases which burden millions of Canadians and others around the globe.”
Dr. Todd Lowary, Scientific Director of GlycoNet
Glycomics is the study of carbohydrates, which includes everything from table sugar to complex structures found on every cell in the human body. Carbohydrates in biological systems are directly involved in the pathophysiology of major illnesses such as cancer, chronic diseases (e.g. diabetes, heart disease), inflammatory responses, and infections (e.g. influenza, tuberculosis). Having a better understanding of the roles of carbohydrates to relieve the burden for even a single disease will have a significant impact on Canadian healthcare. As an example, in the recent COVID-19 outbreak, glycomics not only shows promising potential but also stimulates cross-disciplinary collaborations such as developing diagnostic tests based on detecting fragments of carbohydrates from the virus, vaccines based on the carbohydrate present of the virus surface, and new drugs to clear the infection through blocking interactions between viral carbohydrates and proteins in the human body. As a leader in the sector, GlycoNet is well positioned to propel this effort and continue its work by unmasking the relevance of carbohydrates in making populations with certain blood types more vulnerable to the infection.
Translating carbohydrate research from bench to bedside is a long and complex process, but it is one that can lead to immense benefits for patients, healthcare providers, and Canadian bio-economy. We are now at a stage where we anticipate innovative therapies and commercialization activities arising from GlycoNet research.”
Ms. Karimah Es Sabar, Chair of GlycoNet’s Board of Directors
“A recent expert panel assessed GlycoNet and its strategic plan and recognized GlycoNet as a value-driven entity to deliver concrete healthcare solutions to Canadians,” said Dr. Elizabeth Nanak, Executive Director of GlycoNet. “NCE’s renewed support will allow us to execute the plan and enable us to pursue foundational research, accelerate research innovation into clinics, provide important training for the next generation of glycoscientists, and engage healthcare stakeholders from academic institutions, industry, government, and not-for-profit organizations.”
At a glance: GlycoNet
- GlycoNet’s vision is to deliver solutions to important health issues and improve quality of life of Canadians through glycomics.
- Since 2015, GlycoNet has invested $27 million in innovative glycomics research, training and outreach. $16 million has been leveraged through partners.
- GlycoNet funding has supported 172 research groups and 419 trainees across Canada.
- Forty-nine patent applications, 10 licensing deals, and four biotechnology startups have been created through GlycoNet-funded research.