Glycosylation is a key post-translation modification for most secreted and cell surface proteins as well as many biological drugs that are designed to modify the immune system and inflammatory pathways. Monoclonal antibodies are amongst the available drugs to address major medical challenges including cancer and autoimmunity, transplantation and the use of stem cells. Major improvements in separations technologies that focus on intact glycoproteins, glycopeptides and released glycans have been driven by the needs of the pharmaceutical industry to manufacture safe and efficacious biological drugs as well as new opportunities that are opening up in basic research.
Detailed structural analysis and accurate quantitation are vital for the analysis of the glycans attached to biopharmaceuticals at all stages of production from understanding the roles for the glycans through clonal selection and production, downstream processing and QC.
In basic research the relevance of glycosylation to understanding the complexity of the systems biology of disease is now widely recognised. Linking the glycome of serum or individual glycoproteins proteins directly to genetics, epigenetics, transcription, metabolomics and proteomics is now feasible. Precision/personalised medicine, including mapping changing glycosylation of disease related glycoproteins, is now recognised for its importance in clinical decision points, such as determining which patients will benefit for particular treatments.