Glycobiology: Health, disease and therapy


Published: 5Nov2001

Leading British scientist to visit McGill November 8

A scientist from Oxford University whose groundbreaking research may hold the key to future treatments for neurodegenerative disorders like Alzheimer’s will give this year’s Foundations of Medical Science public lecture at McGill on Thursday, November 8, at 4 pm in the McIntyre Medical Building (3655 Promenade Sir-William-Osler, 6th floor, Palmer-Howard Amphitheatre). Professor Dwek is a Fellow of the Royal Society, director of the Glycobiology Institute at Oxford University and head of the Department of Biochemistry, which is the largest in the Western world. University science, maintains Dr Dwek, "is an example of knowledge, innovation and training, the basis on which to create health and wealth for modern society."

Says Professor Dwek, "Glycobiology [a word coined by him in 1988 which entered the Oxford English Dictionary in 1992] is the new science concerned with sugars attached to proteins and lipids. Sugars represent the third ’alphabet’ of biology -- the other two being the DNA alphabet and the protein alphabet." His lecture at McGill on November 8 will cover several related topics, including novel approaches to Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C (diseases which chronically infect over 500 million people worldwide), and genetic disorders such as Gaucher’s disease and Tay-Sachs disease. He will also touch on the new proteomics technology, a subject of particular interest to McGill scientists like John Bergeron and genetics expert Tom Hudson.

In addition to being a much-honoured scientist and administrator, Dr Dwek is the author of a number of patents. He founded the Glycobiology Institute at Oxford in 1988 and became the founding scientist of Oxford GlycoSciences, established to commercialize technologies arising from research at the Institute -- Oxford University’s first spinoff company. The company is now a major biotechnology firm which employs over 160 people and has created 20 research posts at Oxford University. In 1998, under his leadership, another company, Synergy Inc., was established in the USA to develop antiviral agents for the treatment of chronic Hepatitis B and C infections.

The title of Dr Dwek’s talk is "Glycobiology -- Health, Disease and Therapy."

The Foundations of Medical Science annual lecture series for the public is made possible thanks to the generosity of the late Rose Wiselberg.