Glycans as drug targets

Glycans are the carbohydrate chains of glycoproteins, proteoglycans, and glycolipids. For many years, glycans were thought to play merely structural roles in cells, but research has shown that they participate in fundamental properties of cells including protein quality control, cell adhesion and motility, endocytosis, and signal transduction [1]. Glycans have also been shown to affect processes important in development, such as cell proliferation and differentiation, and morphogenesis.

Glycans play key active roles in a number of human diseases. For example, glycans have been implicated in tumor growth and metastasis in breast, colon, prostate, melanoma, and other forms of cancer [2-11] . Glycans have also been implicated in various forms of inflammatory disease including asthma and dermatitis [12, 13]. Glycans are also pathogenic in lysosomal storage diseases, a group of approximately forty inherited diseases characterized by defects in lysosomal function [14].

Past attempts at developing drugs that target glycans have been limited by slow and expensive carbohydrate chemistry as well as the lack of effective glycan-targeted high-throughput screening methods. Zacharon has created novel high-throughput screening methods to overcome these limitations and identify glycan-targeted small molecule drugs with strong efficacy and safety profiles.

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