By Lisa Anderson
Today, questions asked by genetic researchers are often answered using big data, through revealing larger patterns, trends and other connections. Thanks to a multimillion dollar research project, researchers at the University of Georgia and George Washington University are partners in a project that will soon be able to provide a way for questions asked by those studying glycoscience to be answered by big data, as well.
The National Institutes of Health has jointly awarded a $10 million grant to UGA and GW to build a glycoscience informatics portal, called GlyGen, necessary for glycoscience to advance. GlyGen will also integrate glycan data with gene and protein data, to allow for more effective analysis.
“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.
Currently, understanding the roles that glycans 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.
“Post-translational modifications along with genomics play an important role in health and disease,” said Raja Mazumder, co-principal investigator and associate professor of biochemistry and molecular medicine at the GW School of Medicine and Health Sciences. “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. For that, we need to understand glycosylation, and we need the resources and tools to support this discipline.”
York, Mazumder and their research 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. The project description is available at https://projectreporter.nih.gov/project_info_description.cfm?aid=9391499&icde=0.
For more information, visit GlyGen.org.
About UGA and the Complex Carbohydrate Research Center (ccrc.uga.edu):
Founded in 1785, the University of Georgia is the birthplace of public higher education in America. One hundred years later, the Complex Carbohydrate Research Center was established to increase knowledge of the structures and functions of complex carbohydrates. CCRC scientists study the complex carbohydrates of plants, microbes and animals to determine the role of carbohydrates in growth and development, host-pathogen interactions and disease processes.
About the GW School of Medicine and Health Sciences (smhs.gwu.edu):
Founded in 1824, the GW School of Medicine and Health Sciences (SMHS) was the first medical school in the nation’s capital and is the 11th oldest in the country. Working together in our nation’s capital, with integrity and resolve, the GW SMHS is committed to improving the health and well-being of our local, national and global communities.