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Canadian Glycomics Network - GlycoNet

$43.6 million for 2014-24
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Canadian Glycomics Network

University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta

Scientific director
Warren Wakarchuk Warren Wakarchuk

Elizabeth Nanak Elizabeth Nanak

Board chair
Karimah Es Sabar Karimah Es Sabar

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

GlycoNet is a one-stop global destination focused on developing new carbohydrate-based drugs, vaccines and diagnostics, 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 over 170 researchers across Canada who focus on infectious diseases, oncology, neurodegenerative diseases, and chronic diseases. With over 278 partners, GlycoNet provides researchers with access to core services in carbohydrate synthesis, complex structure analysis and high-throughput screening of new drug candidates.

Among the results

  • GlycoNet has leveraged $35.4 million partner contribution since 2015, which brings its total domestic investment in glycomics research to $78.4 million. To date, 138 projects were funded. These projects focus on areas such as addressing federal action on antimicrobial resistance, treating heart diseases, Alzheimer’s Disease and enteric inflammatory diseases, and developing platform technologies that will enhance Canada’s biomanufacturing capacity and accelerate the translation of scientific breakthroughs to the clinic.
  • GlycoNet’s universal blood technology is an example of how glycomics can make transformative socio-economic impact. The goal of this internationally recognized project is to make universal donor blood (Type O negative) from all donor blood types. This technology will allow blood transfusions from donors that would otherwise be mismatched, saving thousands of patients’ lives per year.
  • GlycoNet-funded research has led to the filing of 65 patent applications, 10 out-licensing agreement, and the creation of 5 biotechnology start-up companies that are commercializing products and services, boosting the Canadian bioeconomy and generating jobs.
    • PanTHERA CryoSolutions provides a much-needed improvement in the cryopreservation of stem cells or progenitor cells and complex tissue constructs.
    • 48Hour Discovery, which started as a provider of core services to GlycoNet, now has expanded in Canada and established two international subsidiaries to offer molecular discovery services for drug candidates and diagnostics.
    • ABOzymes Biomedical Inc. is developing a platform to make universal donor blood, making a world where blood type is no longer a constraint for those receiving a life-saving transfusion or organ transplant.
    • Carbaform Bioscience has developed technology that, when incorporated in existing manufacturing processes, can significantly increase the efficacy and utility of therapeutic antibodies.
    • GlyCa BioSciences is developing a transformative liquid biopsy testing platform that greatly improves the accuracy of prostate and other cancers diagnoses.
  • Since 2015, GlycoNet continues to enhance Canada’s global leadership in glycomics. International collaborative projects, unique and specialized core services and ongoing research and knowledge exchange are making impact across Canada and beyond. GlycoNet’s international partnership with Taiwan and Australia has expanded to Japan, France, and the United States.
  • GlycoNet is ensuring that Canada continues as a global leader in glycomics through its strong training program that supports more than 580 trainees and alumni. GlycoNet actively engages secondary teachers to share inquiry-based-glycomics resources into high school curriculum. GlycoNet Investigators are also leading efforts to bringing cutting-edge experiments, instructional videos and lectures to rural and First Nations communities.

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