BSc, University of Nottingham
PhD, University of Newcastle
Research interests are centred on protein-carbohydrate interactions with particular emphasis on the relatively small carbohydrate recognition element (epitope) that contacts the protein binding site. Antibodies against microbial carbohydrate antigens afford protection against infection and protein oligosaccharide conjugate vaccines are one of the most successful public health measures against serious diseases. Other important protein carbohydrate interactions involve adherence of bacteria or their toxins to the mammalian cell surface oligosaccharides of glycolipids, and N-linked and O-linked glycoproteins.
The group currently focuses on two major themes: design, synthesis and evaluation of conjugate vaccines against bacterial and fungal diseases and the development of novel approaches for the design and synthesis of inhibitors to block bacterial toxin and virus binding to mammalian cells. The approach adopted is multidisciplinary and involves the synthesis of oligosaccharide epitopes generally consisting of 2-5 hexose residues, and NMR experiments to determine solution conformation in the free and bound states. Special emphasis is placed on the accurate determination of the thermodynamics of binding using sensitive techniques such as titration microcalorimetry. The structure activity relationships that emerge are used to guide the design and synthesis of inhibitors. Research on toxin inhibitors involves a large component of computational approaches and molecular modeling studies.
Our laboratory is part of the Alberta Ingenuity Centre for Carbohydrate Science. Several of our projects involve national and international collaborations with crystallographers and bio-medical research groups. Current targets and practical applications of the research are synthesis of microbial antigens, glycolipid adjuvants, cancer associated glycosphingolipids, and the design and synthesis of high affinity inhibitors to block bacteria adherence or bacterial toxin binding to human cells. Examples of funded projects include: