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Canadian Glycomics Network - GlycoNet

$27.3 million for 2014-19
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Canadian Glycomics Network

Number of partners

Partner contributions
$1.8 million

University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta

Scientific director
Todd L. Lowary Todd L. Lowary

Board chair
Frank Gleeson Frank Gleeson
President, Gleeson & Associates

Turning carbohydrate research into health solutions

The opportunity

Carbohydrates play a pivotal role in virtually all biological processes, which makes them key to solving many health issues. Glycomics—the study of sugars in biological systems—has led to the commercialization of several carbohydrate-based drugs, including ones that fight influenza, blood clots, diabetes, seizures and migraines. Building on a half-century of glycomics research and a burgeoning biotech sector, Canada is ideally positioned to take advantage of this emerging golden age of glycomics. A national, multidisciplinary effort is now bringing researchers and health scientists together with industry, government and international partners to translate this opportunity into results that improve patient health, and grow Canada’s biotech and pharma sectors.

How GlycoNet is seizing the opportunity

The Canadian Glycomics Network (GlycoNet) is creating a one-stop global destination focused on developing new therapeutics in collaboration with academic and industry organizations to address areas of unmet need through applied glycomics research. This national platform supports translational research, protection of intellectual property, novel drug development, company formation and training. The network includes 109 researchers from across Canada who focus on antimicrobial drugs, genetic diseases, diabetes, obesity, chronic disease, new therapeutic proteins and vaccines. GlycoNet provides researchers and industry partners with access to core services in carbohydrate synthesis, complex structure analysis, and high-throughput screening of new drug candidates.

Among the results

  • GlycoNet has funded 40 projects with $12.6 million over three years. The funded projects span antimicrobials, rare genetic diseases, diabetes, obesity, chronic disease, therapeutic proteins and vaccines.
  • GlycoNet investigator Stephen Withers discovered Montbretin A, a compound from a common garden plant that could be used to control the release of glucose into the bloodstream and help diabetics keep their blood glucose levels stable. Current drug therapies come with unpleasant side effects, while tests of Montbretin A on diabetic rats have shown limited side effects.
  • Network scientists Lorne Clark and Stephen Withers are developing pharmacological chaperones – therapeutics that help key proteins function better – that could be used to treat Gaucher disease, Tay-Sachs disease and Parkinson’s disease.
  • A partnership between GlycoNet and the University of Alberta’s CMASTE allowed four Canadian high school teachers to develop 16 glycomics-based teaching resources in GlycoNet labs, all of which are available online. The program will continue annually at two additional sites.

Connect with GlycoNet


October 2, 2017
October 20, 2016
October 3, 2016
September 22, 2016
November 6, 2015
Watch Video
GlycoNet - Antimicrobials research
September 19, 2017
Watch Video
The Secret Life of Carbohydrates
December 14, 2015
Watch Video
The GlycoNet Story
June 1, 2015
Watch Video
Jay Ingram - The Potential of Glycomics
May 4, 2015