Sugars (carbohydrates, saccharides, glycans) are the most abundant biopolymer in nature. They are essential components of any organism and have a variety of biological functions, hence are involved in many disease and serve as attractive therapeutics. Sugars are a very complex molecules with many structural differences and because of their complexity very little is known of the specific function of each sugar. Synthetic sugars are attractive because they allow us to discover the specific roles that each complex sugar play in cellular and extracellular environment. However, synthesizing these biopolymers is almost impossible for most laboratories.
Our research involves the developments of practical tools to synthesize complex sugars. We are developing automated machines that will enable the synthesis of complex sugars and will facilitate their accessibility. Our group is using photochemical approaches that are performed by using UV or visible light irradiation, to synthesize complex sugars. The great advantage of this photochemical approach is that it does not require the use of very hazardous and toxic reagents.