in Hach Hall, Jan. 10, 2012
Our group is finding new ways to make and analyze sugars to dissect their important roles in plant, animal, and human biology and in biomass production. One major long-term goal is to rationally design therapeutic interventions such as vaccines based on a deeper knowledge of these carbohydrate interactions. Most recently, we have created the first automated solution-phase method to readily synthesize oligosaccharides using methodologies that we are applying to other biologically active molecules. This automated method circumvents key problems encountered with the solid-phase approaches that allowed commercial automated synthesis of other biopolymers like DNA and peptides. We have also discovered that the same fluorocarbon tag that facilitates our automated synthesis can be used to directly surface-pattern these tagged molecules to form carbohydrate microarrays for screening against carbohydrate-binding proteins. In addition, the group has found several extremely heat-stable enzymes analyzed by mass-spectrometry-based assays to make carbohydrate structures. Ames, Iowa is also home to the Plant Sciences Institute, an excellent veterinary school and the National Animal Disease Center – a setting that allows an easier transition of our basic science work into applications. We also greatly appreciate support from Iowa State University, the Grow Iowa Values Fund, the National Science Foundation, and the National Institutes of Health.