• Understanding cell wall structure and biosynthesis and overcoming the recalcitrance of plant cell walls to conversion into feedstocks that can be transformed into liquid fuels and other energy sources will be important to achieving a sustainable energy revolution. Glycoscience research will be necessary to advance this area.
  • Glycoscience can contribute significantly to bioenergy development by advancing the understanding of how to increase biomass production per hectare and how to increase the yield of fermentable sugar per ton of biomass.

In the area of materials the committee finds that:

  • By fostering a greater understanding of the properties of glycans and of plant cell wall construction and deconstruction, glycoscience can play an important role in the development of nonpetroleum-based sustainable new materials.
  • Glycan-based materials have wide-ranging uses in such areas as fine chemicals and feedstocks, polymeric materials, and nanomaterials.
  • There are many pathways to create a variety of functionalities on a glycan, creating a wide range of options for tailoring material properties.

Based on the above, the committee makes the following findings on the toolkit needed to advance glycoscience:

  • Scientists and engineers need access to a broad array of chemically well-defined glycans.
  • Over the past 30 years, tremendous advances have been made in chemical and enzymatic synthesis of glycans, but these methods remain relegated to specialized laboratories capable of producing only small quantities of a given glycan. For glycoscience to advance, significant further progress in glycan synthesis is needed to create widely applicable methodologies that generate both large and small quantities of any glycan on demand.
  • A suite of widely applicable tools, analogous to those available for studying nucleic acids and proteins, is needed to detect, describe, and fully purify glycans from natural sources and then to characterize their chemical composition and structure.
  • Continued advances in molecular modeling, verified by advanced chemical analysis and solution characterization tools, can generate insights for understanding glycan structures and properties.

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