Glycomics can bring a new perspective to precision medicine.

Understanding glycomics

Genomics and proteomics — the studies of genes and proteins, respectively — have had major roles in our understanding of human biology and disease. Both of these areas have seen a great deal of progress that has led us to significant advances in medicine. However, one area that we have only started to understand relatively recently is glycomics.

Glycomics focuses on the sugar structures, or glycans, within the human body. These glycans are present in many areas of the microbiome, including cell surfaces and proteins, and can be incredibly complex. As researchers have focused their attention on this area, they have begun uncovering valuable information about the roles glycans and glycosylation play in the body, such as cellular communication, and what they can tell us about disease progression and diagnostics.

Until recently, glycomics has been a largely overlooked area of study. Nevertheless, it has the potential to have a significant impact on precision medicine and healthcare as a whole. This blog will demonstrate the promise of glycomics by exploring how it is poised to impact drug development and clinical research.

Glycomics and precision medicine

Glycomics can bring a new perspective to precision medicine, which is currently dominated by genetic and proteomic tools. For example, genetic information may not completely indicate variations on the protein and cell surface, which would be determined by an analysis of the protein’s glycosylation.

In practice, alterations in glycosylation can be used as pharmacological targets, and also inform clinicians about pharmacological interference that might affect the outcome of a treatment. Additionally, diagnostics can be used to identify conditions based on glycomic alterations, which, in turn, opens up the possibilities for glycomic-based therapies.

Use of glycomics as a therapeutic application

Alterations in glycosylation can indicate specific disease states. In fact, many of the biomarkers already in use for clinical diagnostics are glycoproteins. As we advance in understanding how glycosylation is linked to disease development, researchers will be able to establish more biomarkers that can be used in analysis, or even as predictive tools. One example of this is in glycan biomarkers found in Helicobacter pylori, a bacteria linked to gastric cancer, the identification and understanding of which has improved diagnosis and prediction of gastric cancer.

One possibility this opens up is using glycomic biomarker assays to screen patient populations for clinical trials. Alongside improvements to our ability to screen a patient’s glycome at the tissue level, progressing insight into the glycome will enhance our ability to identify or define criteria for patients who might be a better fit for a given study.


Glycomics is still a developing field, with much left to learn. However, our current understanding of it is enough to make it clear that it is a field that can have a significant impact on medical treatment and biopharmaceuticals. Without a doubt, glycomics is an area which requires further consideration moving forward.

For more information on the current trends and technologies in glycomics, the future of glycomics in drug development, and how novel glycomic biomarkers will be the focus of transformed clinical trials that embrace unprecedented digital data capturing, management and analytics strategies, read our whitepaper.

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