24 November 2021

The biannual New Frontiers series of the Radboud Institute for Molecular Life Sciences present the latest scientific developments of a chosen field of research and their potential for medical translation. The 2021 New Frontiers Symposium on 18-19 November was on Translational Glycoscience. The human glycome has a major impact on every aspect of life sciences, from developmental biology to new forms of personalized diagnostics and therapy. After the genome and proteome, the glycome presents a new perspective on human biology and disease by post-translational modification of proteins and lipids.

During this symposium, a range of national and international leading scientists provided a broad overview of the field of glycoscience, from synthetic molecules and analytical chemistry to the role of glycosylation in personalized diagnostics and as therapeutic targets. They also shared their vision on the future of glycoscience and discussed the challenges to be solved for broad embedding of glycosciences in medical research and clinical applications.

A crash course was organized by the PhD council of the Radboud Consortium for glycoscience in advance of the meeting to introduce the basic concepts of glycoscience. The program in itself was highly diverse, offering keynote lectures with lively panel discussions, interactive poster sessions, the Bloemendal award and college tour with Laura Kiessling, and a challenging pub quiz. Posters were awarded in the category of glycoscience and by public voting on Day 1 and Day 2:

Poster awards:

  • Glycoscience: Damian Perez-Martinez. Design and Synthesis of N-glycomimeDcs with high affinity for DC-SIGN
  • November 18: Dimitri Lindijer. The glyco-code in pancreatic cancer: immune suppressive signatures, novel opportunities for diagnosis and therapy
  • November 19: Federica Conte. A new plaform integrating metabolomics and 3D engineered heart tissue for functional and metabolic characterization and therapy-screening of metabolic cardiomyopathies in congenital disorders of glycosylation

We understand that novel innovative tools are becoming available such as glycan arrays to screen for binding specificities and inhibitors in respiratory viruses, synthetic molecules to modulate glycosylation in for example cancer and neurological disease, and analytical methods for deep glycan sequencing and glycoprotein characterization via CryoEM.

We have learned about novel insights in the biology of glycosylation by studies in human diseases such as dysregulated glycosylation pathways in diverse cancers, inhibitory or stimulatory glycosylation profiles in cancer that are being exploited as novel immune-checkpoints, and genetic and environmental factors as basis for altered glycosylation in common diseases as diabetes and autoimmune disease.

Finally, we now know that many tools have sufficiently matured to have impact on concrete medical applications, such as approved diagnostic tests for hepatocellular carcinoma, clinical therapeutic trials in genetic diseases, glycans influencing immunotherapy in cancer and health benefits of dietary glycans in infant milk.

Altogether, the future of glycoscience is bright and promising by providing a novel perspective to influence the future of human medicine.

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