Glycomics Institute of Alberta

Hello, world!

We’re the Glycomics Institute of Alberta (GIA), a provincial platform focused on education, communication, and collaboration. Abnormal glycans are implicated in the pathophysiology of every major disease. Understanding how these glycans drive disease could lead to developing new biomarkers for diagnosis, monitoring, and treatment. GIA provides an organized framework for discovery in glycoscience.

Traditional Territorial Acknowledgement

The University of Alberta respectfully acknowledges that we are located on Treaty 6 territory, a traditional gathering place for diverse Indigenous peoples including the Cree, Blackfoot, Métis, Nakota Sioux, Iroquois, Dene, Ojibway/Saulteaux/Anishinaabe, Inuit, and many others whose histories, languages, and cultures continue to influence our vibrant community.

What is glycomics?

Glycans, also known as carbohydrates, oligosaccharides, or sugars, are the most abundant biomolecule on the planet and coat every cell in the human body. Cells use these sugars to communicate at the molecular level to carry out a number of functions, from removing harmful bacteria to aiding in cell migration. They are essential to our health and wellbeing, and could be part of novel solutions to many health problems including cancer and neurodegeneration. Yet they are still one of the least studied classes of biomolecules.
The information coded by these sugars is known as the sugar code. Glycomics is the study of the sugar code within our bodies, referred to as the glycome. Our understanding of the sugar code and the incorporation of this knowledge has lagged. GIA provides an extraordinary opportunity to address this gap in a comprehensive manner across multiple disciplines. Leveraging this underexplored facet of health and disease will make a big impact on patient outcomes.

Glycans are important in...

...gut colonization

Microbes with enzymes that break down sugars in human milk oligosaccharides outcompete microbes that don't in the infant gut.

...vaccine technology

Some people may be unable to establish good protection post-vaccination because they have high levels of a particular glycan.


Cancer stem cells can be distinguished from other less aggressive tumor cells based on differences in glycosylation.

...the immune response

Immune cell migration can be blocked by knocking down neuraminidase enzymes that dictate the glycan structure of cellular receptors.


We now know which glycans SARS-CoV-2 binds upon infection, suggesting what kind of tissues this virus can grow in.

...brain health

Gangliosides, a type of glycolipid found in the brain, may be able to treat neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson's and Huntington's.

Where does GIA come in?

In the early 1960s, Dr. Raymond Lemieux, a University of Alberta alumnus, and his colleagues achieved what was dubbed “the Mount Everest of organic chemistry” at the time – they were the first to chemically synthesize sucrose. This paved the way for the creation of new antibiotics and semisynthetic blood group antigens.

Raymond Lemieux’s research program evolved into the Alberta Ingenuity Centre for Carbohydrate Science in 2002 and subsequently the Alberta Glycomics Centre (AGC, 2012-2018). Our strength in glycosylation research made the University of Alberta the natural host for the national Canadian Glycomics Network (GlycoNet), part of the National Centers of Excellence, in 2015. This network has brought enhanced visibility and funding to glycosylation research nationwide.

In 2022, the Glycomics Institute of Alberta (GIA) was officially launched as a University of Alberta Institute. The mission of GIA is to focus on local glycoscience and glycomics, connecting researchers at the University of Alberta and beyond. Today, GIA and GlycoNet work together to build on the foundation laid all those years ago to bring meaningful results in medicine and biotechnology to Albertans and Canadians at large.

Our Vision

The University of Alberta is known for its concentration in glycosylation researchers, and has historically been an international leader in glycomics. GIA builds on this strength and creates opportunities to address the often diverse and complex health issues Albertans face from a glycomic perspective.

Our Mission

Our mission is to bring glycomics into the lives of Albertans. We connect people and assets focused on glycosylation research,  educate both early STEM students and more mature biomedical researchers on its relevance to health and disease, and promote the research conducted by our members.

Want to become a member?

If interested, use the contact form below to learn more.


Participate in bi-monthly scientific meetings and trainee meetings


Engage in glycoscience-related topics at our yearly symposia


Be notified of funding and award opportunities through our newsletter


Expand your network and get your name out there by joining a committee

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