Athens, Ga. – The Department of Energy has awarded the University of Georgia Complex Carbohydrate Research Center a four-year, $3.1 million grant to continue as a national resource for researchers who study the complex carbohydrates of plants and of microbes that interact with plants. The grant for the DOE Center for Plant and Microbial Complex Carbohydrates, the only center of its kind in the U.S., has been renewed six times since it was originally awarded in 1986.
“As interest in complex carbohydrates has grown, the DOE center has provided us the ability to transfer our knowledge, expertise and technology to academia, government and industry,” said Regent’s Professor Alan Darvill, co-founder and director of the CCRC and the grant’s principal investigator.
Scientists from U.S. and international biotechnology companies, universities and government agencies send carbohydrate samples derived from animal, plant, and microbial sources to the DOE center for characterization and structural analysis using the latest technologies, collaborate with CCRC scientists and attend specialized training courses at the center.
“Demand for CCRC’s analytical services and training has doubled approximately every four years, as understanding of the importance of complex carbohydrates in biological systems has grown,” said CCRC technical director Parastoo Azadi. Azadi is co-principal investigator with Russell Carlson, professor of biochemistry and molecular biology in the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences.
“We’re unmatched in the world,” said Azadi. “There’s really nowhere else where scientists doing cutting-edge research can go for analysis, expert consultation and training in one place.”
Carbohydrates have primary roles in normal growth and development, disease processes and a variety of regulatory processes in plants, animals and microbes. The involvement of complex carbohydrates in most cell activities makes understanding their structure and function essential to many fields of basic research and biotechnology, as well as human health, biomedical sciences and bioenergy.
The CCRC was founded at UGA in 1985 to answer the national need for a center devoted to increasing knowledge of the structures and functions of complex carbohydrates. The DOE-funded center was the first of the five federally designated centers dedicated to carbohydrate research that are now located at CCRC.
In addition to the DOE center, the National Institutes of Health funds the Research Resource for Integrated Glycotechnology, the Integrated Technology Resource for Biomedical Glycomics, and the Southeast Collaboratory for Biomolecular NMR. The National Science Foundation funds the Genomics Center: A Monoclonal Antibody Toolkit for Functional Genomics. CCRC faculty also are part of UGA’s research team in the DOE-funded BioEnergy Science Center, one of three research consortiums established in the United States to conduct basic research into the conversion of lignocellulosic biomass to ethanol and other biofuels.