GlycoNet awards $500K to five research projects in Alberta

As the province’s leadership in glycomics research grows, investigators continue to work to answer important questions about human and animal health

EDMONTON, ALBERTA (Friday, July 12, 2019) – The Canadian Glycomics Network (GlycoNet) awarded $500K in grants to five Alberta-based projects between April 1 and June 30, 2019. These funds provided under the Network’s Alberta Partnership Program (APP) were leveraged alongside an additional $744K from partners, including federal funding agencies, provincial funding agencies from outside of Alberta, international institutions and industry partners. The APP was created following the integration of the Alberta Glycomics Centre into GlycoNet and is funded with support from Alberta Innovates. The program fosters translational human and animal health research in the field of glycomics, helps bolster Alberta’s leadership in the field, and leverages the province’s dynamic research environment to generate economic opportunities for Albertans.

It’s been a banner six months for glycomics research in Canada, and in particular Alberta. In April, the federal government announced the creation of a new Canada Excellence Research Chair in glycomics. It will be held by Dr. Lara Mahal, who will be joining the University of Alberta this fall. Mahal will join 27 other investigators, including GlycoNet’s new Associate Scientific Director Warren Wakarchuk, as well as 66 trainees working in Alberta.

“GlycoNet’s approach to research shows the benefits of multidisciplinary collaboration,” says Elizabeth Nanak, GlycoNet’s Executive Director. “It is great to be able to add the Alberta Partnership Program as a source of funding for researchers in the province. The first five projects funded show great promise in advancing research on a wide range of health issues impacting humans and animals.”

“Alberta’s leadership in glycomics research has grown steadily since GlycoNet was created in 2015,” says Alberta Innovates CEO Laura Kilcrease. “GlycoNet’s Alberta Partnership Program supports projects driving to answer important questions about human and animal health and this, in turn, has the potential to generate economic opportunities for Alberta.”

Glycomics research leverages biology, chemistry, immunology, agriculture, and other disciplines of medicine and natural sciences to understand the role of glycans and carbohydrates in human and animal health. Glycans – chains of sugars- coat the surface of every cell in the human body. They interact with proteins and enzymes, sometimes altering their normal functions, which can lead to health issues ranging from infections, to cancers and degenerative diseases. GlycoNet investigators and their collaborators work to develop accessible, affordable and practical clinical solutions to many of these diseases. With a focus on glycomics, the five projects funded in this cycle will attempt to uncover concrete solutions to pressing health and environmental needs by:

  • Developing a new drug to treat gastrointestinal inflammation in humans and livestock.
  • Leveraging mass spectrometry to try to prevent Alzheimer’s disease.
  • Analyzing how carbohydrates can be used to stop neurodegeneration.
  • Improving diagnosis and treatment of cancer.
  • Designing a test to determine organ transplant compatibility when the donor and recipient have different blood types.

Summaries of projects funded

Advancement of the novel GlycoCage molecule delivery technology to mitigate inflammatory intestinal diseases in human beings and livestock
GlycoNet contribution: $100,000 / Project worth: $456,000
Investigators: Douglas Inglis (University of Lethbridge; Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada), Wade Abbott (University of Lethbridge; Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada), Harry Brumer (University of British Columbia), Claudia Sheedy (University of Lethbridge; Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada), Richard Uwiera (University of Alberta)
Collaborator: Valerie Boras (Alberta Health Services)
Research will explore the potential of a new drug delivery system that carries glycan-tagged anti-inflammatory molecules to the gastrointestinal tracts of human beings and livestock to effectively treat debilitating enteric inflammatory diseases (e.g. Crohn’s disease, salmonellosis).

Optimizing a mass spectrometry-based approach for studying glycan ligands of the Alzheimer’s related receptor CD33
GlycoNet contribution: $100,000 / Project worth: $204,000
Investigators: Matthew Macauley (University of Alberta), John Klassen (University of Alberta)
This study will develop an analytical approach to identify the biological glycans that make patients more susceptible to Alzheimer’s disease.

Therapeutic role of gangliosides in neurodegeneration
GlycoNet contribution: $100,000 / Project worth: $180,000
Investigators: Simonetta Sipione (University of Alberta), John Klassen (University of Alberta), Matthew Macauley (University of Alberta)
This project will analyze the efficiency of a carbohydrate-derived molecule in treating neurodegenerative diseases, and identify an optimal method to deliver the therapeutic agent to the brain.

Novel Molecular Probes Targeting GLUT5-Diagnostic and Medical Imaging Applications and Discovery of Fructose Inhibitors as Potential Therapeutic Drugs
GlycoNet contribution: $100,000 / Project worth: $200,000
Investigators: Frederick West (University of Alberta), Joanne Lemieux (University of Alberta), Andrei Manolescu (University of Alberta), Frank Wuest (University of Alberta)
This research will design a small molecule PET tracer to investigate a protein biomarker indicative of cancer and non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH). Researchers will also use the protein biomarker as a target to develop therapeutic drugs.

Luminex bead-based ABO antibody assay: Defining normal and seeking clinical opportunities
GlycoNet contribution: $100,000 / Project worth: $204,000
Investigators: Lori West (University of Alberta), Christopher Cairo (University of Alberta)
This research aims to design a high-precision glycan-based diagnostic test that can help clinicians determine if patients can receive ABO incompatible organ transplants.

About GlycoNet
GlycoNet is a pan-Canadian, multidisciplinary research network aiming to deliver solutions to important health issues and improve the quality of life of Canadians through the study of glycomics. GlycoNet is funded by the Networks of Centres of Excellence, a Government of Canada program that supports large-scale, academic-led research networks to build research capacity and accelerate the creation of new knowledge in a specific research area. GlycoNet welcomes opportunities to collaborate with industry, not-for-profit and government partners to advance glycomics translational research. For more information, visit

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