CERMAV : 50 Years of Research at the Forefront of Glycosciences

Glycoscience aims at understanding the structures and functions of glycans, to synthetize them and to develop their use in wide range of domains, from human health to agriculture, from material science to nanotechnology. Glycoscience is a highly interdisciplinary field gathering researchers from all backgrounds. From the biochemistry point of view, glycans, in the form of oligosaccharides or glycoconjugates encode biological information. Glycans are directly involved in the pathophysiology of every major disease, and their therapeutic potential is presently largely underestimated. They are key players in interactions among and between microbes and host cells, therefore involved in infections processes, but also in the establishment of symbioses between plants and microorganisms of the rhizosphere.

At CERMAV, chemical approaches for developing new synthetic pathways and analytical methods for glycans mirror the efforts of biochemists to understand the glycan synthesis by glycosyltransferases, their modification by a large variety of carbohydrate-acting enzymes and their recognition by lectins.

From the structural point of view, polysaccharides are fascinating and ubiquitous molecules, playing a central role in the intrinsic constitution of a huge number of living organisms, from the most simple bacteria or yeasts to the delicate butterflies or giant sequoias. Human activity has used them since the dawn of mankind in their rawest form (fuel, food, housing, furniture, clothes, etc.) evolving to more transformed materials (derivatives, paper, additives, etc.) supporting an active industry. As our civilization turns to be more connected and technological, the need of tailored materials is a strong motor for innovation, and since its creation,

CERMAV has naturally accompanied this evolution from the accumulation of fundamental knowledge on the main components of plant cell walls to the elaboration of dedicated smart material. In terms of chemistry and material science, the research relies on more sophisticated approaches with up-to-date characterization tools and the design of smart green building blocks, self-assembled structures, 2D or 3D dimensions and stimuli-responsive biomaterials for reparative surgery or drug delivery, (nano)composites, etc. Researchers face exciting challenges and possibilities of inventing new materials for a more sustainable world. Nature is an immense source of inspiration and our best supplier of an indefinitely renewable variety of molecules and materials.

Anne Imberty, Head of CERMAV.