Professor David Vocadlo
Simon Fraser University

"The roles of carbohydrates in human health and disease: from fundamental research to clinical applications"

  • When: Thursday 2 March, from 5.30 pm for refreshments, lecture begins at 6 pm.
  • Where: Old Government Buildings, Lecture Theatre 2, 55 Lambton Quay, Wellington
  • Carbohydrates are one of the buildings blocks that are essential for all forms of life. Yet few people know that structurally diverse monosaccharides assemble with other biomolecules such as lipids and proteins to form many distinct structures. These carbohydrate structures, known as glycans, coat cells from all domains of life and regulate diverse cellular and physiological processes. However, because they are not directly encoded within the genome, this field of molecular biology known as glycomics remains a frontier area of research. To facilitate glycomics research, Professor Vocadlo's team has been working to create new tools to enable the wider research community. In this presentation he will illustrate with examples some of the critical roles played by carbohydrates in both health and disease. Following on this he will discuss his team's work on the creation of new chemical technologies and their use in advancing glycomics research. Finally, he will touch on how these advances are helping to create new therapeutics that may serve to slow or stop neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.

    Professor David Vocadlo completed his PhD at the University of British Columbia in 2002 with Steve Withers. He was a Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) postdoctoral fellow at the University of California at Berkeley in the Departments of Chemistry and Molecular and Cell Biology with Carolyn Bertozzi. In 2004, he joined Simon Fraser University (SFU), where he is now a professor in the Departments of Chemistry and Molecular Biology & Biochemistry and Tier I Canada Research Chair in Chemical Biology. His research focuses on developing chemical biology tools and using these to advance understanding the roles of glycoconjugates in health and disease.
    He is an inventor on over 30 families of patents and several technologies have been out-licensed from his SFU laboratory. His team pioneered the creation and preclinical validation of OGA inhibitors for neurodegenerative diseases, a strategy now advanced into clinic trials and pursued by several pharmaceutical companies. Vocadlo has been recognized with various awards including the EWR Steacie Memorial Fellowship, the Horace Isbell Award of the American Chemical Society, and appointment as an inaugural member of the Royal Society of Canada, College of New Scholars. He is an Associate Editor at ACS Chemical Biology and Co-Founder and Chief Scientific Officer of Alectos Therapeutics.