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BloodCenter of Wisconsin awarded $5 million NIH glycosciences grant

Milwaukee – September 7, 2018

BloodCenter of Wisconsin, part of Versiti, is among four academic and research centers which will receive approximately $20 million over the next five years from the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), to launch a new national Career and Development Consortium for Excellence in Glycosciences. Glycosciences is the study of complex carbohydrate molecules and their roles in human development, health and disease.

As part of the consortium, BloodCenter of Wisconsin’s Blood Research Institute will receive approximately $5 million for its own Program for Career Development in Glycosciences.

  • BloodCenter of Wisconsin Program for Career Development in Glycosciences (BloodCenter of Wisconsin, Medical College of Wisconsin, Virginia Commonwealth University and Roswell Park Cancer Institute)
  • UC San Diego Program for Career Development in Glycosciences
  • Hopkins-Cleveland Clinic Program for Career Development in Glycosciences (Johns Hopkins University, Cleveland Clinic)
  • Harvard Program for Career Development in Glycosciences (Harvard University)

Mounting evidence suggests glycans play an important role in human development, health and disease, and should be taken into account when new therapeutics are designed and tested.

All life forms on earth contain four basic building blocks: nucleic acids (DNA and RNA), proteins, lipids (including fats) and glycans (simple and complex carbohydrates). While almost everyone has heard of DNA, RNA and proteins, people typically associate fats and carbohydrates with unhealthy food and obesity. But life requires that all four components work together in various combinations.

“Translational medicine fosters cross-functional collaborations between researchers and clinicians to facilitate precision-driven treatments for individualized therapy,” said Karin Hoffmeister, M.D., Senior Investigator, BloodCenter of Wisconsin Blood Research Institute. “Scientists and clinicians successfully applied this approach to DNA and proteins; however the science of glycans (carbohydrates) has received little attention. Hence, glycoscience and translational aspects of glycosciences lag far behind other disciplines.”

Dr. Hoffmeister is also the Director of the Translational Glycomics Center at BloodCenter’s Blood Research Institute, and Professor of Biochemistry at the Medical College of Wisconsin. She will lead the cross-disciplinary Career Development in Glycosciences program at BloodCenter of Wisconsin, with

Nancy Dahms, Ph.D., Professor of Biochemistry, Medical College of Wisconsin; Umesh Desai, Ph.D., Professor and Chair, Department of Medicinal Chemistry, Virginia Commonwealth University and Joseph T.Y. Lau, Ph.D., Distinguished Professor of Oncology and Distinguished Member of the Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology, Roswell Park Cancer Institute.

The BloodCenter of Wisconsin program will recruit and train more than 12 early career glycoscientists over the next five years, with a focus dedicated to recruiting clinician scientists into this program. Program applicants must be graduates with M.D., Ph.D. or M.D./Ph.D. degrees able to commit to a rigorous coursework in glycosciences while completing research with a program mentor — one of 23 established faculty members across four institutions studying various biological, chemical and biomedical aspects of glycans.

Trainees will also have access to leading-edge glycan research technologies at each of the participating institutions (BloodCenter of Wisconsin, Virginia commonwealth University, Medical College of Wisconsin, Roswell Park Cancer Institute), and opportunities to rotate in collaborating laboratories, network with visiting scholars and participate in local, national and international symposia.

“Our goal is to identify and support a cadre of new junior investigators to become outstanding, independent clinician-scientists in translational glycobiology,” said Dr. Dahms, program co-director.

“Our program is unique in that it breaks fresh ground by forming a new Medical Glycoscience Network that brings together a diverse and collaborative team of mentors in four institutions,” said Dr. Lau, program co-director.

“To encourage cross-fertilization of ideas and introduction of glycosciences into clinical practice is a big step forward towards democratizing glycosciences,” said Dr. Desai, program co-director.

With its newly established Translational Glycomics Center at the Blood Research Institute and the three participating institutions, BloodCenter of Wisconsin bridges new and established expertise in glycobiology to the new consortium. The center’s leadership and faculty have already played key roles in national glycoscience efforts. Dr. Hoffmeister works with institutions such as the American Society of Hematology, International Society of Thrombosis and Hemostasis and others, to bring glycosciences into the mainstream. The Blood Research Institute is establishing coursework locally and cross institutionally, establishing core facilities that support academic and industrial research, as well as organizing annual symposia to share new advances in the field.

About BloodCenter of Wisconsin 

BloodCenter of Wisconsin, part of Versiti, is a not-for-profit organization headquartered in Milwaukee, Wis., that specializes in blood services, esoteric diagnostic testing, organ, tissue and stem cell donation, medical services and leading-edge research. We advance patient care by delivering life-saving solutions grounded in unparalleled medical and scientific expertise. The collective efforts of Versiti affiliates result in improved patient outcomes, expanded access to care, and cost efficiencies for healthcare systems nationwide. For more information, visit www.versiti.org.                                     

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