Glycoscience, which focuses on the study of the structural and functional roles of carbohydrates in their biological context, has an increasing impact on many areas of our economy but particularly in biotechnology, health, food and energy, key focus areas also of the Horizon 2020 program.
Illustrative examples for the importance of glycoscience are the effects of protein glycosylation on efficacy, immunogenicity and circulatory half-life of recombinant therapeutic proteins, the enormous untapped potential of glycan biomarkers in personalized medicine and the therapeutic use of carbohydrate antigens in the development of synthetic vaccines and for the immunotherapy of cancer, allergy and autoimmune disease.
The interaction of antigens with Toll like receptors (TLRs) or C-type lectin receptors (CLRs) on antigen presenting cells (APCs) like dendritic cells (DCs) or macrophages is the initiating step in the adaptive immune response. This primary interaction is followed by the uptake, processing and presentation of antigen by the APC.
Binding to certain C-type lectin receptors can lead to activation of DC signaling events accompanied by the secretion of cytokines and the expression of co-stimulatory compounds, required for T-cell activation. Depending on the CLR involved and the cytokines secreted, the immune response can be shaped towards macrophage or B-cell activation or towards a pro-inflammatory or allergic response.
An early intervention in the immune response as the targeting of specific C-type lectins can be a powerful strategy to shape the immune response towards a therapeutically desired effect and has wide potential applications from cancer immunotherapy to the treatment of allergy and autoimmune disease and in vaccine development.
The Immunoshape consortium seeks to combine state of the art synthesis and screening technology to develop the lead structures for highly selective glycan based multivalent immunotherapeutics for the treatment of cancer, autoimmune diseases and allergy.