Carbohydrate Chemistry Comes of Age
A new national network of chemists and biologists is planning to open up a vital area of chemistry that could have major implications for the drug, food and agrochemical industries.
The UK Carbohydrate Chemistry Network, being set up at the University of East Anglia (UEA), will involve scientists from across the country who are trying to understand and exploit the essential role that carbohydrates play in nature.
Biological processes such as determining blood groups in humans and how tropical parasites can evade the human immune system are closely linked to carbohydrates. This type of research could open up new opportunities for therapeutic intervention in diseases such as tuberculosis and cancer, and identify novel 'green' applications for renewable and biodegradable molecules such as starch and pectin.
"Recent advances in genome biology are presenting exciting new opportunities for carbohydrate chemists to make a real contribution towards better understanding of the role of sugars in health and disease processes," said Professor Rob Field of UEA's School of Chemical Sciences and Co-ordinator of the new network.
The network, which is being funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), will facilitate discussion and collaboration through e-mail exchange, a website and interdisciplinary workshops for researchers. Funds are also available to promote research mobility, thereby providing nationwide access to key expertise and state-of-the-art facilities.
Other founding members of the network include researchers at the universities of Birmingham, Cambridge, Edinburgh, Leeds, Oxford, Reading, St Andrews and York.
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