The relevance of glycobiology goes beyond the importance for basic studies of cell biology. Currently, glycoprotein and carbohydrate-based drugs and therapeutics represent a greater than $20 billion market (1-4).
A very important set of therapeutic glycoproteins are recombinant monoclonal antibodies (rMAbs). They can effectively inhibit TNF-α and thus control the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis and other autoimmune diseases. Oncological applications include the use of rMAbs to target malignant cells to prevent tumor proliferation.
Recent progress in chemical synthesis and bioengineering resulted in the development of many carbohydrate-based vaccines, some of which also have applications in cancer treatment. Finally, it must be mentioned that one of the oldest drug agents to date is Heparin, a proteoglycan that is still widely used to successfully treat a broad range of conditions.
1. Jacobs PP, Callewaert N. (2009) Curr Mol Med. 9(7):774-800. PMID: 19860659
2. Hossler P, Khattak SF, Li ZJ. (2009) Glycobiology. 19(9):936-49. PMID: 19494347
3. Cosmi B, Palareti G. (2012) Thromb Res. 129(3):388-91 PMID: 22137740
4. Lepenies B, Seeberger PH. (2010) Immunopharmacol Immunotoxicol. 32(2):196-207. PMID: 20141495