University of Georgia

GlycoMIP celebrates grand opening at UGA

GlycoMIP will make widely available to researchers the resources at UGA’s Complex Carbohydrate Research Center, one of the world’s leading research institutions for glycoscience. Shown here (left to right) are CCRC co-directors Michael Tiemeyer and Al Darvill; CCRC Analytical Services Director Parastoo Azadi; GlycoMIP Associate Director Rob Woods; and UGA Vice President for Research Karen Burg. (Photo by Amy Ware)

GlycoMIP, a national research hub focused on glycomaterials research and led jointly by Virginia Tech and the University of Georgia, celebrated the grand opening of its national user facility in February with ribbon-cutting ceremonies at both universities.

The most abundant materials on our planet are composed of chains of sugars, or glycans. These glycomaterials are integral to our daily lives and part of the field of study known as glycosciences.

In 2020, the National Science Foundation awarded nearly $23 million to a new multi-university partnership, led jointly by Virginia Tech and the University of Georgia, to establish a national research hub to accelerate glycomaterials research in the U.S.

GlycoMIP will address nationwide bottlenecks in glycomaterial synthesis, computer modeling, material characterization, and knowledge sharing through groundbreaking research and a unique national user facility that will provide critical tools and services to the scientific community.

GlycoMIP is one of four NSF Materials Innovation Platforms, each serving different scientific communities. GlycoMIP aims to accelerate the discovery and innovation of novel glycomaterials by bringing together the glycobiology and materials research communities.

GlycoMIP user facility on the UGA campus
Lauren Pepi, postdoctoral associate in the Azadi laboratory, operates the the GlycoMIP-funded Orbitrap Eclipse Tribrid Mass Spectrometer, which is being used for structural characterization of glycopolymers at the GlycoMIP user facility on the UGA campus. (Photo by Amy Ware)

“Glycomaterials are present in every living organism,” said Maren Roman, an associate professor in the Department of Sustainable Biomaterials and the director of GlycoMIP.

“GlycoMIP supports research on both natural and artificial glycomaterials through a unique national user facility with state-of-the-art instrumentation housed in the Fralin Life Sciences Institute at Virginia Tech and the Complex Carbohydrate Research Center at the University of Georgia.”

“Building the GlycoMIP national user facility during a pandemic has been challenging and taken longer than we hoped,” said Roman. “But now we are ready and excited to welcome researchers, both novice and experienced, to our facilities and support them in their research endeavors.”

GlycoMIP is not limited to just the 2,400 square feet of laboratory space at Virginia Tech’s Fralin Life Sciences Institute; it spans institutions, thanks to a powerful collaboration with UGA’s CCRC, and research partnerships with Brandeis University, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

The GlycoMIP user facility at Virginia Tech houses two automated glycan synthesizers from GlycoUniverse and is the only facility in the country able to provide on-demand glycan synthesis and characterization. Other instrumentation of note are two state-of-the-art mass spectrometers, two vibrational optical activity spectrometers, and a microfluidic-based surface plasmon resonance instrument.

“Visitors to the GlycoMIP user facility at Virginia Tech may take advantage of the synergistic proteomics and glycomics capabilities located at Steger Hall in the Fralin Life Sciences Institute.” said X.J. Meng, interim executive director of the Fralin Life Sciences Institute. “We are thrilled to help support this national user facility on the Virginia Tech campus.”

“At UGA, GlycoMIP users may take advantage of the sophisticated mass spectrometry, NMR spectroscopy, and biolayer interferometry capabilities located at the Complex Carbohydrate Research Center, as well as state-of-the art computer modeling services,” said Rob Woods, associate director of GlycoMIP.

Virgina Tech Ribbon Cutting
Maren Roman (front left), an associate professor in the Department of Sustainable Biomaterials, cuts the ribbon to celebrate the grand opening of the national user facility at the Fralin Life Sciences Institute at Virginia Tech. (Clockwise from back left: ) Ryan Porell, GlycoMIP technical manager; Richard Helm, associate professor in the Department of Biochemistry; X.J. Meng, interim executive director of the Fralin Life Sciences Institute; Randy Heflin, senior associate vice president for Research and Innovation; Alan Esker, professor and chair in the Department of Chemistry; Daniel Sui, senior vice president for Research and Innovation; Brady Hall, GlycoMIP technical manager; Lauren Mills, GlycoMIP program coordinator; and Linda Caudill, GlycoMIP managing director. (Photo by Tyler Harris/Virginia Tech.)

“The GlycoMIP User Facility combines state-of-the-art instrumentations with our expertise and track record in glycoscience to tackle and address challenging problems facing the glycopolymer scientists spanning the entire country, including universities, research institutes and industry,” said Parastoo Azadi, director of core services at the CCRC.

Other research facilities accessible to users of the GlycoMIP user facility include the Virginia Tech Materials Characterization Lab and Nanoscale Characterization and Fabrication Lab and the CCRC’s NMR facility.

“Bridging the gap between glycobiology and materials research can only occur if the tools and resources needed for both endeavors are co-housed and consistently supported. The Materials Innovation Platforms, or MIPs, established by the National Science Foundation, allow that to occur. It is an exciting time for glycan-based research,” said Rich Helm, director of the GlycoMIP User Facility at Virginia Tech and director of Core Services at the Fralin Life Sciences Institute.

“The GlycoMIP user facility is part of the Materials Genome Initiative, an effort where data sharing, tool and community development are emphasized,” said Dan Sui, senior vice president of Research and Innovation at Virginia Tech. “This is a great opportunity to develop and advance technologies that will provide benefits to our local community, state, country and the world. I am excited to see GlycoMIP flourish.”

GlycoMIP services are available for researchers from industry, academia and government agencies, ranging from expedited service and sample requests to full-scale research projects. Contracts can also be arranged to support the proprietary research and development needs of private-sector and international users.