Ana Luísa Carvalho, Angelina Palma, Maria João Romão and Eurico Cabrita, researchers from UCIBIO at FCT NOVA, integrate the consortium of the “GlycoMed - A new generation of enzymes for biofilm dispersion and immunomodulation in cancer” project that aims to develop a catalog of carbohydrate active enzyme with biomedical applications (GlycoZymes). The project has been awarded a 435 K€ project grant, funded by the Regional Operational Programme – Portugal 2020, and the consortium includes also the company NZYTech, Lda and the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine-ULisboa.
Three UCIBIO research labs (Macromolecular Crystallography Lab, Functional Glycobiology Lab and (Bio)molecular Structure and Interactions by NMR Lab) were invited to this consortium for their expertise in the functional and structural characterization of carbohydrate-binding proteins in different biological systems. “Besides the financial support, it represents a great opportunity for the two research labs to be part of an industrial strategy that joins fundamental and applied research in the development of innovative biomedical tools”, says Ana Luísa Carvalho, researcher at the Macromolecular Crystallography Lab.
More specifically, a collection of enzymes capable of digesting the main exopolissacharides present in biofilms produced by the pathogenic bacteria Pseudomonas aeruginosa (Pel, Psl and alginate) and Staphilococcus aureus (PNAG) will be developed in order to promote its dispersion, allowing a better penetration of antimicrobial agents used in the treatment of chronic infections. A group of novel sialidases will also be developed, which are able to cleave the cell surface sialic acid, overexpressed in some cancer cells, in order to block its immunosuppressive effect, promoting an immune response against the tumour cells. “We expect that this project will have great impact in biomedical and clinical research has it will provide new tools for fighting two highly prevalent diseases such as cancer and chronic infections”, conclude the UCIBIO researchers involved in the project.