Project description

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PhD4GlycoDrug is a consortium of scientists that provides excellent training for a PhD cohort in the area of Glycodrug development. Glycodrugs are sorely missing in the pharmaceutical arsenal to combat disease despite their enormous potential. The consortium aims to train a new generation of scientist that has all the scientific skills, the overview of the drug pipeline, and the social and management skills to succeed and fill the gap between excellent European academic research and the glycodrugs the population urgently needs.

Glycodrugs are drugs that interfere with protein-carbohydrate interactions, which are involved in many biological processes. Glycans are major constituents of any cell surface giving rise to the so-called glycocalyx and constitute the first information layer encountered by and from a cell. Communication based on protein-carbohydrate interactions is crucial since errors may lead to various diseases and pathogens take the advantage of the surface carbohydrates as attachment points for infection. Besides binding to the glycocalyx, intracellular sugars such as N-acetylglucosamine are also very important post-translational modifications of proteins in signalling pathways. Our understanding of the communication involving carbohydrates is improving since we know more and more about the identity of the sugars present on cell surfaces and the identity of proteins involved in protein-carbohydrate interactions. This understanding will only improve in the coming years and will provide great opportunities to make large steps in the development of drugs that interfere with protein carbohydrate interactions.

The expertise for glycodrug discovery already exists throughout Europe, but is rather dispersed in various European academic institutions and small drug discovery enterprises. To bridge this gap and to create a large force in the glycodrug development, we have designed a joint PhD training and research programme that involves all phases of the glycodrug design and development pipeline preceding in vivo studies and clinical trials. Our consortium has the goal at the research level to make the compelling scientific point that glycodrugs can and need to be developed and at a human resource level that newly minted scientists from the project will make a difference and will pursue the glycodrug opportunities. The drug pipeline is covered from target identification to ADMET. The PhD4GlycoDrug Consortium will lead to a lasting innovative force in glycodrug development and continue to show big pharmaceutical companies its potential.

Selected targets for PhD4GlycoDrug ESR research projects are all of medicinal interest whose activity can be modified with tailored carbohydrate-based ligands:

Targets for new anti-infectives
– fucose and mannose specific lectins from lung pathogens
– lectins for opportunistic fungi
– bacterial transport proteins

Anticancer and immunomodulatory targets
– galectins
– siglecs target family
– O-GlcNAc transferase