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30 Jul 2020

Doherty Institute glycoscientist awarded Australian Research Council Future Fellowship

University of Melbourne Dr Nichollas Scott, a Laboratory Head at the Doherty Institute, has been awarded a prestigious Australian Research Council (ARC) Future Fellowship worth more than $850,000 for his research into glycosylation.

Protein glycosylation, the chemical addition of sugars to proteins, is an important but poorly understood aspect of bacterial physiology. For infectious diseases, targeting the sugars linked to proteins within pathogens is increasingly being harnessed for vaccine therapies.

Dr Scott’s project will investigate the role of glycosylation within Burkholderia species, a group of diverse bacteria found in the environment which can lead to opportunistic infections in sensitive populations such as Cystic Fibrosis sufferers. This project builds upon the team’s recent discovery of a highly conserved O-linked glycosylation system, which suggests that glycosylation plays a far more fundamental role in the physiology of Burkholderia than previously thought.

This innovative project will provide a comprehensive understanding of how glycosylation contributes to Burkholderia protein function and how these systems can be harnessed for the creation of bespoke glycoconjugates, an emerging field known as glycoengineering.

“By better understanding bacterial glycosylation systems this has the potential to improve how we produce next generation glycoconjugates such as vaccines or enzymes for industrial applications,” said Dr Scott.

This funding will support Dr Scott's use of cutting-edge proteomics, novel expression systems and molecular approaches to reveal the role of glycosylation in Burkholderia species.

“Although the field of bacterial glycoengineering is relatively new to us, bacteria have been doing it for millions of years. By understanding how they use glycosylation this can show us new applications and tricks we may not have considered before,” he said.

Dr Scott’s grant was one of a 100 researchers who received $90.5 million, which the Australian Government allocated to meet critical research challenges.