Potatoes with less “bad” starch, food with natural additives to boost the immune system, or baby’s milk formula that more closely matches breast milk are some of the potential benefits from a new University of Adelaide laboratory launched today.

Adelaide Glycomics, based at the University’s Waite campus, will be the first comprehensive facility for the analysis of complex carbohydrates (‘glycans’) in the Southern Hemisphere. It will put South Australian researchers at the forefront of research and development in the expanding field of glycoscience (the study of structure and function of glycans).

Launched by Science and Information Economy Minister Kyam Maher, Adelaide Glycomics is a collaboration between the University of Adelaide and Agilent Technologies Australia Pty Ltd, a leading provider of bio-analytical instrumentation and applications, many of which are developed at its Spectroscopy Products Division facility in Melbourne.

“Complex carbohydrates are critical in every area of biology,” says Professor Vincent Bulone, Director of Adelaide Glycomics and Director of the ARC Centre of Excellence in Plant Cell Walls. “But beyond their important role in living organisms they can be exploited in many products. There is hardly a moment in our daily life where we are not exposed to glycans.

“These molecules are the most complex in nature and the least understood. Until now, we haven’t had a facility in Australia of this scale and breadth capable of the required comprehensive analysis of structure and function. Adelaide Glycomics aims to fill this gap.”

University of Adelaide Vice-Chancellor and President Professor Warren Bebbington said: “This research offers great potential for new products and applications across a wide range of industries important for South Australia.

“Adelaide Glycomics is the first such comprehensive facility in the Southern hemisphere. It will serve as a hub for local, national and international collaborations in this growing area.”

One example of work that may take place in the laboratory is analysing starch in potatoes to determine the structure and relative proportions of different starch types in potatoes and what controls these proportions, with the aim of producing low-GI potatoes through plant breeding.

Examples from many other areas of potential benefit include: development of biological-based materials for drug delivery systems and cosmetics; helping control the composition and quality of wines; improved understanding of the causes of diseases and developing diagnostic tools; and new strategies for eco-friendly waste management.

Minister for Science and Information Economy Kyam Maher says the collaboration between the University of Adelaide and Agilent Technologies provides a platform to build on the state’s know-how to create new sustainable industries such as this in South Australia.

“The establishment of Adelaide Glycomics at the Waite campus will ensure that Australia is at the forefront of Glycoscience internationally,” Mr Maher says. “This collaboration in an emerging industry supports South Australia’s transformation to a modern and innovative economy, which is critical to South Australia’s future economic growth and for creating jobs.”

Highly qualified analysts and state-of-the-art instrumentation, made available through the collaboration with Agilent Technologies, will support fundamental and applied research in glycoscience and the development of new applications for a range of industries. Adelaide Glycomics will serve as a hub for local, national and international collaborations and will also offer training workshops and on-site demonstrations for researchers and technical staff.

“We are proud to work with the University of Adelaide and Professor Vincent Bulone in developing this world-class analytical facility. This collaboration underscores the importance Agilent places on academia, working together to boost scientific outcomes that will provide economic and societal benefits,” says Dr David Bradley, Agilent’s Academia and Collaborations Manager for the South Asia Pacific and Korea region, noting that the company began its analytical instrumentation business approximately 10 years after the invention of the atomic absorption spectrometer by CSIRO scientist, Sir Alan Walsh.

“We have since developed many spectroscopy-based laboratory instruments, and continue to be committed to working with researchers across various industries to develop new applications from insight to outcome.”

LINK: Adelaide Glycomics website

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