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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

Executive Director
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 150 researchers across Canada who focus on infectious diseases, oncology, neurodegenerative diseases, and chronic diseases. With over 120 academic and industrial 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

  • 93 research projects were funded to advance therapeutics and technologies in various areas, including addressing antimicrobial resistance, treating cardiovascular diseases and gut inflammatory diseases, and developing tools in the diagnosis and treatment of neurodegenerative diseases and cancer.

  • One of the GlycoNet projects led by Network Investigators was recognized worldwide with its application to make universal blood. The goal of this project is to use enzyme technology to convert donated blood to be compatible with all patients, regardless of the blood type of the donor or the recipient. 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 49 patent applications, 10 licensing deals, and to the creation of 4 technology-based start-up companies:

    • PanTHERA CryoSolutions provides a much-needed improvement in the cryopreservation of stem cells or progenitor cells and complex tissue constructs. 
    • 48Hour Discovery Inc., which started as a provider of core services to GlycoNet, now offers novel molecular discovery services for drug candidates and diagnostics.
    • Carbaform Biosciences has developed technology to improve the efficacy and utility of therapeutic antibodies.
    • GlyCa BioSciences is developing a transformative liquid biopsy testing platform for prostate and other cancers.

  • Since 2015, GlycoNet has increased its international collaborations in glycomics research, trainee research exchanges and core services through its trilateral partnership with Taiwan and Australia. Starting in 2020, GlycoNet has co-funded projects with its international partners to enhance Canada’s international profile in glycomics research.

  • In terms of training and outreach, GlycoNet works with the Centre for Mathematics, Science and Technology Education (CMASTE) to develop bilingual and inquiry-based resources for secondary school classrooms, based upon the works of Canadian carbohydrate scientists. In addition, GlycoNet is working closely with Network Investigator Dr. Chris Phenix, who is leading efforts to bringing cutting-edge experiments that include instructive videos and lectures to rural and First Nations communities.

Connect with GlycoNet


March 24, 2020
January 23, 2020
December 12, 2019
November 22, 2019
August 16, 2019
January 25, 2018
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HQP launch careers through GlycoNet
February 5, 2019
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Partnering with GlycoNet companies to improve people's quality of life
September 17, 2018
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GlycoNet - Rare Genetic Diseases
January 24, 2018
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GlycoNet – Chronic diseases
November 30, 2017
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GlycoNet - Antimicrobials research
September 19, 2017
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The Secret Life of Carbohydrates
December 14, 2015
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The GlycoNet Story
June 1, 2015
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Jay Ingram - The Potential of Glycomics
May 4, 2015