Our research interest focuses on the synthesis and biological functions of carbohydrates and glycoconjugates. Before the 1970s, scientists solely considered carbohydrates as energy sources, structural components, and protective agents. However, it is now well established that in the living cell carbohydrates play key roles in many crucial recognition processes. It has been realized that these compounds may provide important leads for drug discovery. To reveal the biological roles of saccharides, it is very important to have sufficient amounts of pure and well-defined (poly)saccharides of different sizes and compositions. Organic synthesis provides an important means of obtaining these fragments. The chemical synthesis of oligosaccharides is much more complicated than the synthesis of other biopolymers such as peptides and oligonucleotides and many challenging problems still need to be addressed.
Part of our research effort focuses on the development of efficient and novel glycosylation methods including combinatorial and solid phase chemistry, the use of new approaches to control anomeric selectivity, the design of new protecting groups and the chemo-enzymatic synthesis of oligosaccharides. Some projects uses synthetically modified saccharides to study the factors that are important for carbohydrate-protein complexation and it is hoped that these programs will lead to the rational design of saccharide mimetics that have improved affinities for particular proteins. Apart form synthesis, these projects require sophisticated structural and binding studies. Other programs deal with the preparation of oligosaccharides of biological importance and are often conducted in collaboration with pharmaceutical companies. The long-term objective of these projects is the development of novel carbohydrate-based drugs and vaccines.