GlycoNet and partners invest $1.7M in Canadian-led health research and bioinnovation

Five glycomics projects have been awarded funding to develop new tools, diagnostics and therapeutics to improve health for Canadians.

EDMONTON, April 18, 2023 – GlycoNet, one of the global leaders in glycomics research and innovation, announced a $728,500 investment for five glycomics research projects to tackle unsolved health issues. Industry collaborators, health foundations and business partners are also co-investing approximately $986,000 to bring the total investment to around $1.7 million. This funding will support the development of new tools, diagnostics and therapeutics in areas including organ transplantation, infectious diseases, cancer, dementia and other health conditions impacting Canadians.

“Through the study of carbohydrates, glycomics researchers are creating new treatments and technologies to improve healthcare and quality of life for Canadians,” says Dr. Elizabeth Nanak, CEO, GlycoNet. “These scientific breakthroughs are only made possible with strategic funding and collaboration. Today’s investment will support the advancement of Canadian glycomics research, the commercialization of new health solutions, and training top talent, while strengthening the diverse bioeconomy of Canada.”

One of the initiatives receiving funding, led by Dr. Lori West at the University of Alberta, involves refining a new tool to better analyze ABO blood group antibodies, providing more accurate information on organ donor-patient compatibility. Pre- and post-transplant monitoring currently relies on a century-old method of testing that provides insufficient and imprecise information, leading to missed opportunities for transplants and unnecessary procedures for antibody removal.

“This technology has the potential to be widely adopted in determining the eligibility of ABO-incompatible organ transplant patients and for clinical management after transplant,” says West. “It will increase our precision in assessing risk and to identify opportunities to expand transplantation to help more patients in need and save more lives. We also anticipate this new tool will have important benefits for testing of blood transfusions.”

Further, this funding will support the next phase of an initiative led by Dr. Matthew Macauley at the University of Alberta, to develop immune-based protective therapeutics for Alzheimer’s disease. More than 400,000 Canadians over the age of 65 are living with Alzheimer’s disease—the most common form of dementia—and this number continues to grow due to a lack of effective treatments available.

Another one of the funded initiatives, led by Dr. Anthony Rullo at McMaster University, is using carbohydrates to leverage the binding interactions between antibodies and immune receptors in a way that enhances the cancer-fighting capabilities of specific antibodies. This research is also part of work being led and funded by Umbel Therapeutics, a GlycoNet-supported biotech start-up, to develop a new anti-cancer drug.

“GlycoNet’s ability to support early research and its early translational development is valuable,” says Dr. John Holyoake, President of Umbel Therapeutics. “While many areas of biology have been quite widely accessed to make drugs, glycomics is a new frontier area where I think we’re going to see a lot of advancements in the next decade. Canada’s has a leading position in glycosciences and we should be doing our most to take this forward—to build companies and make patients’ lives better using that knowledge and leadership.”

Strategic investment in glycomics, along with the mobilization of knowledge, expertise and partnerships, provides the necessary catalyst to develop made-in-Canada solutions to emerging and growing health issues, while building a resilient bioeconomy.

Quick Facts

  • Glycomics is the study of carbohydrates or sugars (called glycans) in all living organisms.
  • Today’s announcement is for approximately $728,500 in funding for 5 glycomics projects plus approximately $986,000 in co-funding from research partners and industry collaborators across Canada.
  • Since 2015, GlycoNet has invested $32.5 million from the federal Network of Centres of Excellence program and leveraged $41.5 million of partner funding into R&D, trained over 600 highly qualified personnel and has supported the start-up of 6 new Canadian companies.

Learn more about the projects receiving funding.

About GlycoNet
GlycoNet is a pan-Canadian research network advancing research, innovation, and training in glycomics to improve the quality of life of Canadians using a One Health approach. The network includes over 180 researchers in 36 institutions across the country participating in more than 140 funded projects. GlycoNet researchers use the study of carbohydrates (sugars) in living cells to find solutions to unmet health needs through the development of new drugs, vaccines, and diagnostics. GlycoNet focuses on four major research areas: cancer, chronic diseases, infectious diseases, and neurodegenerative diseases. GlycoNet is also a leader in training the next generation of glycoscientists and promoting collaboration and advancement in glycomics research. GlycoNet Integrated Services (GIS) also operates under the network, providing access to state-of-the-art glycomics tools and expertise. Learn more at

Media Contact
Swati Mehta
Account Director, PR Associates