Carbohydrates are the most abundant class of organic compounds on Earth and are found in all main macromolecular building blocks of life, including nucleic acids, proteins and lipids. Glycomaterials are carbohydrate-based polymeric materials with diverse biological functions including biochemical signaling, structural support, and water retention. Because of their complex molecular structures, glycomaterials are more difficult to design, create, and characterize than other biopolymers. There are no widely available methods for their large-scale synthesis and rapid characterization. These scientific and technological challenges hinder our understanding of these ubiquitous materials, vitally important to advancing sustainable materials, renewable energy technologies, and human health. Anchored at Virginia Tech and the University of Georgia, GlycoMIP, an NSF Materials Innovation Platform, accelerates discovery in glycomaterials science and technology through a unique national user facility and leading-edge in-house research and advances the implementation of the Materials Genome Initiative paradigm shift in materials development. The GlycoMIP user facility supports researchers from academia, industry, and government research institutions through access to state-of-the-art equipment, world-class services, and technical data for the synthesis, characterization, and modeling of bioinspired glycomaterials at the molecular, supramolecular, and macroscopic (bulk property) levels. Strengthened by world-leading expertise at Brandeis University, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, and the University of North Carolina, the in-house research of GlycoMIP employs efficient convergence of physical sciences, engineering, computation, and life sciences to achieve scientific and technological breakthroughs in scalable synthesis, high-throughput characterization, and mesoscale modeling of glycomaterials. GlycoMIP is a nationwide collaboratory, where members of the glycomaterials community share tools, samples, data, software, and know-how for the collective advancement of glycomaterials science and technology. GlycoMIP offers short courses, hands-on training courses, and tutorials on glycomaterials science and technology topics to users and potential users and trains the next generation of glycomaterials researchers in accelerated materials development.
Open to external researchers from across the nation, the GlycoMIP user facility at Virginia Tech and the University of Georgia provides access to unique experimental and computational tools for glycomaterials synthesis, characterization, and modeling and facilitates Materials Genome Initiative approaches to materials research and development. These include automated glycan synthesizers for de novo glycan synthesis, a mass spectrometry (MS) imaging system for in-situ glycan analysis, high-resolution, multi-stage MS systems for in-depth glycan structural analysis, surface plasmon resonance imaging and biolayer interferometry systems for high-throughput quantitation of binding events, two vibrational optical activity spectrometers for analysis of solution-state conformations, and a rheometer for the characterization of glycan-based solutions and gels. The facility also offers users multiple open-access databases and online services to facilitate automation of MS and nuclear magnetic resonance spectral assignments, provide access to molecular modeling, and enable optimization of automated glycan synthesis. The in-house research of GlycoMIP addresses the grand challenge of rational molecular design of glycomaterials with predefined solution- and gel-state properties, focusing specifically on accelerated development of glycomaterials with predicted binding, conformational, or self-assembly behaviors through computer-guided design of primary structure and molecular architecture.
This Materials Innovation Platform award is jointly funded by the Division of Materials Research (DMR) and Division of Molecular and Cellular Biosciences (MCB).
This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.