More importantly, such an effort will attract the attention of researchers in a wide range of disciplines and democratize the field. Glycoscience, like genomics and nanotechnology, will then become a core discipline that is integrated across the entire scientific enterprise, spawning both advances in knowledge and economic activity. The return on an investment in glycoscience, as with genomics and nanotechnology, is likely to be substantial and to contribute significantly to the recently announced effort to develop a national bioeconomy.

The committee’s recommendations seek to enable the development of better and more readily accessible tools for studying glycoscience and for applying glycoscience knowledge to questions across multiple fields. The committee has sought to prioritize areas where advances will be broadly applicable and where gaps in current capabilities cut across and currently limit research. Such areas include the chemical synthesis of glycans and the determination of glycan structures. Having accessible databases and bioinformatics tools is similarly of fundamental utility to the field. Longer-term, education of the scientific community and students about the functions of glycans will be important to achieving a roadmap for the future of the field. How to most effectively deploy resources to achieve these priorities and to enable glycoscience to contribute to advances in health, energy, and materials science will require additional discussion among multiple federal agencies as well as members of the broader scientific community, a discussion that extends beyond the committee’s mandate in this report.

The committee’s findings are detailed in preceding chapters; the findings fall into four general categories that can be summarized here. In the area of human health the committee finds that:

  • Glycans are directly involved in the pathophysiology of every major disease.
  • Additional knowledge from glycoscience will be needed to realize the goals of personalized medicine and to take advantage of the substantial investments in human genome and proteome research and its impact on human health.
  • Glycans are increasingly important in pharmaceutical development.

In the area of energy the committee finds that:

  • Plant cell walls, made mostly of glycans, represent the planet’s dominant source of biological carbon sequestration, or biomass, and are a potentially sustainable and economical source of non-petroleum-based energy.


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