Researchers at the George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences studying glycoscience—the structure and function of carbohydrates—will use big data to reveal larger patterns and trends, as part of a multimillion dollar project with the University of Georgia.
The glycoscience research team aims to use big data to answer the pressing questions in the field, similar to genetic researchers.
The National Institutes of Health jointly awarded a $10 million grant to GW and UGA to build a glycoscience informatics portal, called GlyGen, necessary for glycoscience to advance. GlyGen also will integrate glycan data with gene and protein data, to allow for more effective analysis.
Currently, understanding the roles glycans—sugar chains made within the body—play in diseases such as cancer involves extensive literature-based research and manual collection of data from disparate databases and websites. GlyGen will simplify this process by providing scientists with a road map that shows key relationships among diverse kinds of information, allowing them to quickly find and retrieve the most current knowledge available and make rapid progress in their glycobiology research.
“Using just genomics research for discovery limits scientific advancement, we may not be able to find mutations to explain the prevalence or rate of incidence of a particular disease,” said Raja Mazumder, co-principal investigator and SMHS associate professor of biochemistry and molecular medicine. “For that, we need to understand glycosylation, and we need the resources and tools to support this discipline.”
It is impossible to do meaningful glycobiology research without including information from many different disciplines, including genomics, proteomics, cell biology, developmental biology and biochemistry, to name just a few, said William York, co-principal investigator, professor of biochemistry and molecular biology at the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences and member of UGA’s Complex Carbohydrate Research Center.
Dr. Mazumder, Dr. York and their teams are working closely with researchers from the United States, Asia, Europe and Australia to build GlyGen. This will allow them to leverage work that has already been done in the field and receive input to make sure GlyGen is accessible to researchers without a glycoscience background.
The project, titled “Computational and Informatics Tools for Research in Glycosciences,” will be funded through 2022.