Goal 1: Promote Human Health

Basic research in glycobiology is urgently needed

There are two areas in which glycobiology has been very successful: technology development and disease correlation. Through efforts exemplified by the CFG, major strides in mass spectroscopy and the creation of novel technologies for probing glycan-protein interactions (e.g. glycan microarrays) have been seen. Likewise, the success of the Programs of Excellence in Glycoscience and those of us focused on disease have also established robust correlations between susceptibility of disease and glycosylation alterations, change in the glycome associated with disease (e.g., cancer, autoimmunity, asthma, inflammation), and others. Too little, however, has been accomplished in determining the underlying molecular mechanisms for these correlations.

Is this idea a Compelling Question (CQ) or Critical Challenge (CC)? Critical Challenge (CC)

Details on the impact of addressing this CQ or CC

If my experience as a standing member of a study section and as a PI who submits greater
than ten R01 applications for every one funded, the reason for this gap in our knowledge is not an inability to
pursue such projects, nor is it a lack of desire within the field. The reason is that these studies never make it
through study section. Why? I believe the explanation is found in the nature of glycosylation: heterogeneity.
The strong bias in modern molecular-based science is that if something is not isolatable in a pure pristine
homogeneity, it cannot be studied. Not only is this short-sighted, it fundamentally betrays the nature of biology.

Feasibility and challenges of addressing this CQ or CC

Part of the solution for these issues is improving education in glycobiology. The other part of the solution is below:

  1. Provide opportunities for R01 and individual PI-focused fundamental glycobiology studies. Promote the dissection of fundamental pathways of regulation and function within in vivo settings so that we might
    begin to convert disease correlation into pathways ripe for therapeutic targeting. There is nothing to translate to the clinic without detailed knowledge of these fundamental pathways.
  2. Provide opportunities to expand local expertise and infrastructure in glycosciences across the country, rather than focusing on a few centers of strength. My experience tells me that investigators outside of glycobiology are far more likely to engage a local collaborator and/or core facility to help explore a glycan-related topic than to deal with a large center in a far-off university – at which they know no one.
  3. There should be a push to promote individual labs with diverse interests and systems to broaden the impact by integrating glycobiology across multiple fields, rather than on concentrating expertise in a small number of large centers.

Name of idea submitter and other team members who worked on this idea Brian Cobb

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Idea No. 1075