Canadian researchers and Taiwanese institution break boundaries to advance glycomics research
by Ali Chou
GlycoNet Investigators giving lectures at Short Courses in Frontier Science and Technology at Academia Sinica in Taiwan, 2019.
The international research community works to pioneer solutions that benefit people and their health. Life in the lab can be lonely. Research can require gathering data for weeks on end. Then comes the months of analysis to decipher patterns, confirm or deny hypothesis and so on. It can take years, even decades for researchers to have that eureka moment.
What if there were ways to speed up the process? Researchers have long understood that collaboration is one of the keys to generating positive human outcomes as quickly as possible. Opportunities for researchers from different countries to gather and share their expertise can help unlock the power of translational research.
It is in that spirit that GlycoNet investigators joined other international glycoscience experts in Taiwan, February 18 – 22, 2019. The gathering aimed to promote multidisciplinary research and international collaboration.
Organized by Academia Sinica in Taiwan, and funded by the Taiwanese Ministry for Science and Technology, the forum created a space for researchers to share ideas on the latest developments in carbohydrates research, emerging pharmaceutical technologies and much more. More importantly, it allowed world-class glycomics experts from six different research institutes to expand their networks and identify opportunities for potential collaborations.
“Over the last couple of years, we have been working to build a trilateral partnership with Australia and Taiwan,” says Dr. Todd Lowary, Scientific Director of GlycoNet and Professor in the Department of Chemistry at the University of Alberta. In 2018, several key researchers from Academia Sinica attended the Canadian Glycomics Symposium. This meeting of the minds motivated Canadian and Taiwanese researchers to continue to build bridges throughout the year. “We are happy to see this collaboration continue over time. We participated in Academia Sinica’s Short Courses in Frontier in Science and Technology series, creating a few courses. This helped strengthen the ties between our organizations and fostered ongoing conversations and collaboration that can be hugely beneficial in speeding up advancements in glycoscience.”
The continued collaboration between researchers continued with this latest conference. Throughout the weeklong event, Taiwanese and Canadian scholars provided attendees with an overview of glycomics, as well as with information about emerging technologies.
The breadth of expertise of GlycoNet investigators was shared during ten seminars.
Dr. Todd Lowary (Professor, Department of Chemistry, University of Alberta) discussed the production of carbohydrates including:
- The making (or synthesis) of carbohydrate-containing molecules.
- How complex carbohydrates synthesized in the lab can be used to elucidate the different roles of glycans in biology.
Dr. Chris Cairo (Associate Professor, Department of Chemistry, University of Alberta) introduced strategies for designing glycolipid probes (a group of fat-like substances decorated with carbohydrates). He tackled the following topics:
- The strategic design of chemical reagents to examine glycolipids in organisms.
- Using carbohydrates to study key enzymes that are involved in cardiovascular disease and cancer.
Dr. Ratmir Derda (Associate Professor, Department of Chemistry, University of Alberta) walked attendees through applications of carbohydrate-based technologies. His seminar looked at:
- How a carbohydrate-based platform can accelerate the development of new drugs.
- How carbohydrates can leverage DNA-technology to expand the field of glycobiology.
Dr. John Klassen (Professor, Department of Chemistry, University of Alberta) presented tools to monitor carbohydrates’ involvement in the human body. He spoke about:
- Ultra-sensitive detection methods to monitor interactions between carbohydrates and proteins.
- How mass-based detection tools facilitate the discovery of new carbohydrate–protein interactions.
Finally, Dr. Matthew Macauley (Assistant Professor, Department of Chemistry, University of Alberta) offered insights into carbohydrate-binding proteins, more precisely tackling:
- Emerging approaches to investigate carbohydrate-binding proteins in the immune system.
- How genetic and chemical methods enable researchers to understand the roles of immune-related carbohydrate-binding proteins.
“GlycoNet and Academia Sinica are committed to supporting Canadian–Taiwanese collaborative projects,”
In addition to seminars, a half-day session was organized to allow GlycoNet investigators and principal investigators from Academia Sinica to identify new opportunities for collaboration. Leaders in the fields of cancer biology, neural development, drug discovery, genetic diseases and immune treatments shared their expertise. Ultimately, these conversations may lead to research partnerships that can accelerate the pace at which health technologies make it to market at home and abroad.
“GlycoNet and Academia Sinica are committed to supporting Canadian–Taiwanese collaborative projects,”says Lowary. “This type of meeting can lead to cross-continental partnerships that minimize costs and maximize how the competencies of researchers from both countries are leveraged,” he concluded.
For updates on this and other GlycoNet’s collaborative projects, click here.