As we enter the second year of the NIH Common Fund Glycoscience program to develop accessible tools for carbohydrate research, we encourage those who are new to carbohydrate chemistry and biology to bring their fresh perspectives to bear on difficult challenges in this field by applying through one of the following funding opportunity announcements (FOAs). While we continue to welcome applications from carbohydrate scientists, we hope to see new ideas from synthetic chemists and technology developers from other fields. Our goal is to enable researchers in all biomedical fields to study the roles of carbohydrates in health and disease, so approaches from outside the established glycoscience community are of particular interest.
Mike Rogers, who has directed the NIGMS Division of Pharmacology, Physiology, and Biological Chemistry for the past 22 years, retired today. Throughout his NIH career, Mike has been a champion for chemistry and its important role in biomedical research.
Before joining NIGMS 26 years ago, Mike worked for more than a decade in what is now the Center for Scientific Review, where he oversaw the Bioorganic and Natural Products study section.
Between these two positions, Mike completed a detail assignment on Capitol Hill working for Senator Ted Kennedy’s Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, an experience that he says allowed him to see NIH from a different perspective.
Throughout his time at NIGMS, Mike has sought to build scientific bridges. He created the chemistry-biology interface predoctoral training program, which aims to cross-train students in both disciplines. He was instrumental in developing the large-scale collaborative project awards program that “glued” together scientists with diverse expertise to tackle big, unanswered questions in biology. More recently, he forged a link between two fields to help form the new field of quantitative and systems pharmacology. Along the way, he mentored and encouraged others to develop major NIGMS and trans-NIH initiatives, such as those in glycoscience, pharmacogenomics and synthetic organic chemistry.
NIGMS and the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research are leading the new NIH Common Fund glycoscience program that is focused on the development of accessible and affordable tools and technologies for studying carbohydrates and their functions. The overall objective is to enable researchers in all biomedical fields to dramatically advance understanding of the roles of these complex molecules in health and disease.
The NIH Common Fund recently issued four funding opportunity announcements from this program:
- Data Integration and Analysis Tools: Accessible Resources for Integration and Analysis of Carbohydrate and Glycoconjugate Structural, Analytical, and Interaction Data in the Context of Comparable Gene, Protein, and Lipid Data (R34)
- Novel and Innovative Tools to Facilitate Identification, Tracking, Manipulation, and Analysis of Glycans and their Functions (U01)
- Novel and Innovative Tools to Facilitate Identification, Tracking, Manipulation, and Analysis of Glycans and their Functions (R21)
- Facile Methods and Technologies for Synthesis of Biomedically Relevant Carbohydrates (U01)
The application deadline for each announcement is December 10, with optional letters of intent due by November 10. For more information about the glycoscience program, view the technical assistance Webinar or contact either one of us at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.
The National Research Council of the National Academies has released a report titled Transforming Glycoscience: A Roadmap for the Future . The report was sponsored by several NIH institutes, including NIGMS, along with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the National Science Foundation and the Department of Energy. It was prepared by the Committee on Assessing the Importance and Impact of Glycomics and Glycosciences , chaired by David Walt of Tufts University.
The committee was charged to “articulate a unified vision for the field on glycoscience and glycomics” and to “develop a roadmap with concrete research goals to significantly advance [them].”
Their major recommendations are that NIH, NSF, DOE and other relevant stakeholders place a high priority on the development of:
- Transformative methods for the facile synthesis of carbohydrates and glycoconjuates;
- Transformative tools for the detection, imaging, separation and high-resolution structure determination of carbohydrate structures and mixtures; and
- Transformative capabilities for perturbing carbohydrate and glycoconjugate structure, recognition, metabolism and biosynthesis.
The report also supports the development of:
- Robust, validated informatics tools to enable accurate carbohydrate and glycoconjugate structural prediction, computational modeling and data mining. This capability will broaden access of glycoscience data to the entire scientific community.
- A long-term-funded, stable, integrated, centralized database that includes mammalian, plant and microbial carbohydrates and glycoconjugates and has links to other databases. The deposition of new structures using a reporting standard should be required.
- Integration of the glycosciences into the science curriculum.
While NIGMS has a long history of investment in the glycosciences, including funding for the Consortium for Functional Glycomics glue grant and the development of methods and tools required for a full glycomics effort, the report sets an ambitious pace that would require a broad, multidisciplinary, multi-agency effort. It’s possible that the report may help guide the development of future NIH initiatives in the areas identified.
Gerald Hart, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and a member of the committee that prepared the report, will brief the NIGMS Advisory Council of its findings at its September meeting. NAS staff involved in developing the report will also be in attendance to respond to questions.
There are over 750 human enzymes dedicated to glycan synthesis, catabolism and recognition. They include glycosyltrasferases (GTs) and glycoside hydrolases (GHs). While there is tremendous demand for these enzymes in the scientific community, few are available in sufficient quantities for synthetic purposes or for structural/functional studies. Not surprisingly, glyco-enzymes are exceptionally underrepresented in the Protein Data Bank.
To help overcome these bottlenecks, NIGMS is partnering with NIH’s National Center for Research Resources to provide a two-year Recovery Act supplement to the NCRR-sponsored Resource for Integrated Glycotechnology at the University of Georgia. The center will draw additional expertise from investigators at the University of Arizona and University of Wyoming to generate libraries of gateway and expression vectors for glyco-enzymes. The gateway and expression libraries for these enzymes will begin to be made available to the scientific community over the next few months.
The team also will work to express and distribute a subset of these enzymes. Your input for this expression effort is welcome. Please direct inquiries regarding these vectors/enzymes to Kelley Moremen.
This new repository for mammalian GT and GH libraries will speed expansion of the chemical space for carbohydrates as well as speed structural and biochemical studies of these enzymes. The resource should benefit multiple scientific communities and accelerate progress on both the basic biology of the enzymes and their use for development of screening tools (arrays), diagnostics and therapeutics.
The GT and GH expression vectors libraries also may be a useful resource for researchers planning to respond to the upcoming PSI:Biology program announcements mentioned in an earlier post.