Glycomics Institute of Alberta

Our Vision

The University of Alberta is known for its concentration in glycosylation researchers and has historically been an international leader in carbohydrate research. GIA builds on this strength and creates opportunities for discovery, innovation, and education in health, agriculture, and technology.

Our Mission

Our mission is to bring glycomics into the lives of Albertans. We are dedicated to fostering excellence in glycoscience by connecting people and assets focused on glycosylation research, advancing knowledge of its multifaceted role, and inspiring the next generation of researchers through educational initiatives.

Hello, world!

We’re the Glycomics Institute of Alberta (GIA), a provincial platform that fosters glycoscience discovery through education, collaboration, and communication. By investigating abnormal glycans, we gain insight into major diseases, leading to groundbreaking advancements in diagnosis, monitoring, and treatment. Beyond health, these molecules also impact agriculture and technology. Let’s explore the sweet potential of glycans together!

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 found everywhere in our bodies, covering each and every cell. They play a crucial role in cell communication, helping with tasks like fighting harmful bacteria and guiding cell movement. They are vital for our well-being, and they might hold the key to tackling health issues like cancer and neurodegeneration. Surprisingly, despite their importance, glycans remain one of the least explored classes of biomolecules.
The information coded by these sugars is known as the sugar code, while the glycome is the complete collection of sugars in a biological system. Its study is known as glycomics. Our understanding of the sugar code and the incorporation of this knowledge has lagged. GIA offers an amazing chance to bridge this gap across multiple disciplines. By unlocking the secrets of these sugars, we can make a significant difference in patient outcomes. Not only that, understanding the sugar code can also revolutionize agriculture and technology.

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.
GlycoGang member N-Acetylglucosamine (GlcNAc) struggling to hold up Mannose (Man), trimphant.

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.

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