Structural Medicine I: The Importance of Glycomics for Health and Disease

Project Number SPB N°27


Professor Johannis P. Kamerling, Bijvoet Center, Utrecht University, Utrecht, The Netherlands.

Professor Rudolf Geyer, Institute of Biochemistry, Faculty of Medicine, University of Giessen, Giessen, Germany.


The goal of this MED (formerly EMRC) science policy activity was to develop recommendations for this research field in the wider context of medical research priorities.Glycomics describes and analyzes the structure of sugar molecules in glycoconjugates. Carbohydrates present in glycoconjugates such as glycolipids and glycoproteins contribute decisively to their functionality. Certain glycosylation patterns give proteins specific physical, biochemical and biological characteristics and cause their structural and functional variance.

MED (formerly EMRC) sees a need for an acceleration of research in Structural Medicine and recommends a strong and coordinated interdisciplinary research effort on a European scale to overcome the fragmentation currently observed and to regain strength in this previously very prominent European research domain. The European Science Foundation calls upon national and European research organisations, as well as the Structural Medicine research community, to give serious consideration to the recommendations in Science Policy Briefing No 27 (lien)
This policy briefing is aimed to develop an area of research considered vital to European medicine; ‘glycomics’. The briefing says that a multidisciplinary approach, to relate the structure of intrinsic glycans and glycoconjugates to their biological function, could aid the rapid development of treatments and diagnostics for a number of life threatening diseases.

The recommendations include:
•   A strong coordinated interdisciplinary European research effort to enhance our insights into the structure of glycans and glycoconjugates in health and disease.
•   The development of high throughput diagnostic tools for the rapid analysis of glycans and improved infrastructures to provide the research community with better access to information.
•   Investment into European interdisciplinary educational programmes aimed at training scientists in glycoscience.


ESF Science Policy Briefing No 27 was published in July 2006.