Glycomics is defined as the study of both free sugars and of the complex sugar chains (glycans) that reside in glycoconjugates such as glycoproteins and glycolipids. Given the effects of post-translational glycosylation on protein function, a major focus of glycomics is to characterize the glycosylation patterns on glycoproteins. This glycan analysis has direct relevance to healthcare, both as a source of novel biomarkers and as a means to characterize glycoprotein therapeutics.
The field of investigation for glycan biomarkers is wide open. Only a few glycan markers, the cancer markers CA19-9 and AFP-L3, for example, have so far entered into routine clinical use. Over 50% of proteins in the human body, including most secreted proteins, are glycosylated. The glycans in these conjugates play a role in a wide range of biologic processes including cell adhesion and signaling, and changes in glycoforms have been observed across a wide range of diseases including cancer and neurological, immunological, and metabolic disorders.
Because glycans affect protein stability, binding, and immunogenicity, they are also of critical importance for glycoprotein therapeutics such as monoclonal antibodies. Glycan analysis discriminates among therapies that, on the basis of their peptide constituents alone, might otherwise be considered identical. The extent, type, and location of glycan structures can impact the mechanism of action of these therapies, their clearance rate, their immunogenicity, and their efficacy.
For all the promise of glycomics, this research has traditionally been laborious and time-consuming and thus lagged behind the rapid adoption of genomics and proteomics. Unlike genes and proteins, glycans are not template-determined and adopt a branched, rather than linear, design. And there is no applicable method like PCR or in vitro protein expression systems to amplify glycans.
Recognizing the need to accelerate glycomics research, Ezose Sciences is using its GlycanMap® technology in collaborations with academic institutions and pharmaceutical, biotechnology, and diagnostics companies. The GlycanMap platform is a high-throughput method to deliver glycan data from either purified glycoproteins or crude biological materials. With a current capacity of two 96-well plates per day, which is fully scalable with the addition of more robotics platforms, the GlycanMap platform provides both the throughput and repeatability required for robust biomarker studies and glycoprotein-therapeutics analysis.