UAlberta Research in Your Life

Sugar's little-known health benefits                            sugar lumps

Many of today’s medical treatments—antibiotics, vaccines, refined blood typing —can be traced back to the creation of synthesized sucrose. UAlbebrta chemist Ray Lemieux was the first to build the 3D sucrose molecule, giving scientists control over sugars in the human body. His discovery enabled scientists to link sucrose to other sugars and then attach them to different molecular compounds like proteins.

Sugar: key to our biological processes and health
Carbohydrates play a central role in how our cells work. Carbohydrate (i.e., sugar) chains, or glycans, are in every living cell and are key to almost every biological process. This is why Lemieux’s research and lab-made sugar discovery was so critical. His synthesis of sucrose was a major breakthrough and laid the groundwork for antibiotics, vaccines, early anti-rejection techniques for organ transplant and even early treatments for hemophilia. Lemieux’s research program later became one of the premier carbohydrate chemistry research groups in the world.

Driving Alberta’s burgeoning biotech industry
Aside from his groundbreaking work on sugar, Lemieux also launched three spinoff companies that helped establish and drive Alberta’s burgeoning biotechnologyR. U. Lemieux
industry. Dubbed ‘Sugar Ray’ for his enormous contributions, his legacy extends far beyond his own work to the research of today’s leaders in glycomics,
metabolomics and immunochemistry.

The sugar effect: new drugs, vaccines and therapies
Fifty years after Lemieux, UAlberta is now home to GlycoNet, a national research network harnessing the power of glycomics (science of carbohydrates or sugar). GlycoNet is a team of over 110 researchers at 28 Canadian institutions focused on the emerging science of carbohydrates. Building on ‘Lemieux’s legacy, GlycoNet will help discover and develop new drugs and vaccines for conditions such as influenza, genetic diseases, diabetes, obesity and rare genetic diseases.