$20M in government funding brings new talent in carbohydrates research to Canada and U of A

Glycomics researcher Lara Mahal announced as Canada Excellence Research Chair.

Lara Mahal, a leading researcher in how sugars are linked with human health and disease, will join the U of A as a Canada Excellence Research Chair. (Photo: Supplied)

By ANDREW LYLE

A world-renowned chemist is bringing her expertise to the University of Alberta to further her work in understanding how sugars interact with human health and disease, thanks to $10 million in federal funding over the next seven years through the Canada Excellence Research Chairs program. The funds will be matched by the Government of Alberta.

“Glycans, the sugars on proteins and lipids, are involved in the development of every major disease—and yet they are one of the least studied and least understood classes of biomolecules,” said Lara Mahal, currently a professor at New York University.

She will join fellow leading experts in glycomics at GlycoNet, a pan-Canadian Network of Centres of Excellence of more than 140 researchers housed at the U of A.

“Canada, and the University of Alberta in particular, have a rich history of supporting research into carbohydrates—including federal support for GlycoNet,” said Mahal. “As a result of that investment, Canadian glycosylation research is well known internationally, making it a welcoming place for my science and for us to continue to advance this field at a world-class stage.”

Mahal said her work at the U of A will focus on identifying sugars involved in diseases critical to human health, from pancreatic cancer to HIV, and exploring offshoots of her earlier work—which may hold the key to more rapid discovery of targets for new drugs to treat the diseases.

She said the CERC funding will enable her to expand her studies in glycosylation to encompass more clinical collaboration.

“The U of A is known for its concentration in glycosylation researchers. There’s an exciting group of researchers at this institution in this field, including Matthew MacauleyLisa WillisChris CairoRatmir DerdaJohn KlassenWarren Wakarchuk and Todd Lowary,” said Mahal.

“I’m looking forward to working with them. I think that this will open up great new opportunities for synergy to help advance this important field.”

The CERC program awards universities funding to support world‑renowned researchers and their teams to establish ambitious research programs at Canadian universities.

Mahal follows the university’s three previous CERCs, Graham Pearson (Arctic resources research), Thomas Thundat(oilsands molecular engineering research) and Michael Houghton (virology).

Original article was published on Folio.

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