MACCABIM, Israel, Nov 16 – Israeli start-up Glycominds has developed a new platform for the systematic study of glycans, complex carbohydrates that bind with proteins and lipids to determine their function.
The database, GlycoDat, which currently contains about 2,500 glycan sequences, is ordered by Glycominds' Linear Code, a new syntax and nomenclature that allows these complex and diverse glycans, including any branching, linkage and/or terminal modifications, to be classified systematically.
“The easy-to-use bioinformatics' system and database for glycans show how to catalog and to trace the interactions of proteins with complex carbohydrates as they are discovered,” said Nir Dotan, who founded the company along with Avinoam Dukler in 1999.
While scientists said that information about glycans could help in the drug discovery process, some questioned Glycominds’ ability to uncover interesting information about glycan function.
“To get to drug discovery, we need to understand the fine points, and this is one of the fine points,” said Alan Williams, bioinformatics manager at Affymetrix. “But how are they making the connection to function?”
Glycominds said Glyder, their advanced algorithm and computer program, was able to perform structural comparisons of the tens of thousands of glycans with known functions, that can elucidate chemical structure, identify similar elements, and present an overall comparative score representing the glycans’ relationships.
" Hopefully glycomics will help close the huge gaps between genomics, proteomics, and drug discovery because [it] relates directly to function,” said Dotan, noting that glycans could be the crucial link in predicting which proteins should be used as treatments and in validating drug targets.
There is some indication that glycans are gaining an increasing amount of attention. A newly formed Consortium for Functional Glycomics launched a membership drive at the Glycobiology 2000 meeting in Boston earlier this month. The consortium is being supported in part by the US National Institute of General Medical Sciences.
Glycominds’ database can be accessed at www.glycominds.net .