Mid-year update: GlycoNet awards $885K in funding to seven projects to foster glycomics research translation

Projects seek solutions to health issues including heart disease, infections, cancer and diabetes

EDMONTON, ALBERTA (Friday, July 12, 2019) –  Between April 1 and June 30, 2019, the Canadian Glycomics Network (GlycoNet) awarded $885K in grants to support seven research projects involving 14 researchers from eight universities or research centers across Canada. GlycoNet’s investment was leveraged with $916K in funding from private and public partners. These innovative projects share a common goal: improving the health of people from coast to coast, while generating positive economic outcomes.

“The projects funded this cycle show that collaboration between investigators and industry is instrumental to research translation. Partnerships with companies like Zucara help researchers uncover concrete solutions to health issues like diabetes,” says Dr. Elizabeth Nanak, Executive Director, GlycoNet. “The projects were chosen based on their scientific excellence and commercial potential.”

It’s been a banner six months for glycomics research in Canada. 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, which is also home to GlycoNet’s new Associate Scientific Director, Warren Wakarchuk. Several GlycoNet investigators promoted Canadian glycomics research leadership abroad, speaking at a conference in Taiwan in February. In May, scholars from Australia and Taiwan attended the Trilateral Partnership meeting which was held concurrently with the Canadian Glycomics Symposium.

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 projects funded in this cycle will attempt to uncover concrete solutions to pressing health needs by:

  • Preserving cells and tissues used in immune cell therapies;
  • Protecting heart muscles to prevent heart failure;
  • Finding more efficient ways to treat pneumonia, meningitis, and intestinal infections;
  • Developing targeted treatments and drugs for infections, cancers, cardiovascular diseases, Alzheimer’s, NASH and diabetes.

Summaries of projects funded

Ice recrystallization inhibitors to improve cyropreservation for engineered cell therapies
GlycoNet contribution: $96,000 / Project worth: $271,000
Investigators: Robert Ben (University of Ottawa)
Collaborators: Anna Jezierski (NRC), Scott McComb (NRC), Susan Twine (NRC)
This study is expected to impact clinical procedures for regenerative medicine and immune cell therapies. Using carbohydrate-based cryoprotectants, this proposal will examine strategies to preserve living cells and tissues through freeze-thaw cycles.

Hit-to-lead optimization of a novel Gram-negative outer membrane disrupting compound
GlycoNet contribution $200,000 / Project worth: $450,000
Investigators: Eric Brown (McMaster University), Jakob Magolan (McMaster University), Dawn Bowdish (McMaster University), Christopher Whitfield (University of Guelph)
This proposal will explore the potential of a small molecule to treat infections associated with Gram-negative bacteria, including bacteria that cause pneumonia, meningitis, and intestinal infections.

Improving CNS delivery of therapeutic biologics with novel kinin functionalized, TRIOZANTM-based nanoparticles
GlycoNet contribution: $50,000 / Project worth: $105,000
Investigators: Fernand Gobeil (Université de Sherbrooke), Yves Dory (Université de Sherbrooke)
The project aims to develop a nanoparticle-based drug delivery system that can enhance the release of biologics to specific sites in the brain for the treatment of central nervous system diseases, including Alzheimer’s.

Development of cardioprotective agents
GlycoNet contribution: $210,000 / Project worth: $280,000
Investigators: Yvan Guindon (IRCM), Mona Nemer (University of Ottawa)
This proposal will develop a carbohydrate-based small molecule that protects heart muscles from toxic agents and loss of muscle contraction, helping prevent heart failure.

Pharmacological targeting of CD33 in Alzheimer’s disease
GlycoNet contribution: $100,000 / Project worth: $220,000
Investigator: Matthew Macauley (University of Alberta)
The study aims to develop therapeutic strategies to treat Alzheimer’s disease by targeting CD33.

A novel mouse model for metabolic syndrome
GlycoNet contribution: $160,750 / Project worth: $321,500
Investigators: Miltiadis Paliouras (McGill University), Mark Trifiro (McGill University), Raquel Aloyz (McGill University)
This study will uncover mechanisms and identify drug candidates to regress the development of nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) by studying the genetic correlations between dietary conditions and liver metabolites at different disease states of disease progression.

Elucidating the role of somatostatin in dysglycemia in a rodent model of type 2 diabetes
GlycoNet contribution: $69,074 / Project worth: $154,648
Investigators: Michael Riddell (York University)
Collaborator: Richard Liggins (Zucara Therapeutics Inc.)
This project aims to continue the development of a therapeutic to prevent hypoglycemia in type 1 diabetes by exploring its mechanism of action in type 2 diabetes.

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 www.glyconet.ca.

For media inquiries please contact:
Marie-Christine Houle-Caron
Senior Communications Consultant
(514) 702-0369

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