Brichacek receives $1.2M NIH grant to study glycans

University of Maine research to provide molecular-level understanding of glycan-associated disorders, such as inflammation, pathogen infection and cancer, has been awarded a $1.2 million grant from the National Institutes of Health.

Matthew Brichacek, UMaine assistant professor of chemistry, leads the research to develop methods to synthesize glycans — a family of carbohydrates — that can attach to a wide variety of biological molecules. Ultimately, the glycans produced by Brichacek and his team would enable investigations of numerous glycan-binding proteins in glycan-associated disorders.

“As a new investigator, I am poised to approach the complex field of glycoscience in innovative ways that will aid in the diagnosis and treatment of human diseases,” says Brichacek.

Glycans play an integral role in cell signaling, immune response and modulation of protein activity. Though researchers have long understood the importance of glycans in biological processes, the ability to study such structures has been inhibited by the complexity of the molecules, and by available tools and technologies.

Brichacek aims to develop tools for studying carbohydrates that will enable researchers in all biomedical fields to dramatically advance their understanding of the roles these complex molecules play in health and disease.

The technology being developed by Brichacek would enable scientists from a wide variety of disciplines interested in carbohydrates to acquire the desired molecules inexpensively and without highly specialized training.

Brichacek, who joined the UMaine faculty in 2014, received his doctorate from Cornell University and was a NIH postdoctoral fellow at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.

Contact: Amanda Clark, 207.581.3721