Genes and proteins are not enough to explain the complexity of Biology. The cell adds complex sugar modifications onto proteins and fats on its surface. Professor Nicki Packer and her research team have been looking at how these sugars are involved in the development of a wide range of diseases such as cancer, cystic fibrosis, infertility, influenza and microbial infection. Compared to proteomics, which has the genomic template from which to read the protein sequence, researchers in the field of glycomics, which is not coded for by the genome, are restricted by a lack of necessary experimental and informatics tools to explore the changes that occur to the sugars that adorn the outside of all cells.
Professor Packer’s team has been acknowledge as one of the first research groups to link glycomics to the proteomics and genomics revolution in biological research. The current projects being carried out by the team, together with the international consortium they have built, will contribute and integrate experimental and functional quality data together with curated literature-derived information into a Big Data knowledge base. Since the initial launch of the UniCarbKB database in 2013 approximately 11,600 users world-wide have viewed over 97,000 pages. This has positioned Australia and Macquarie as a leader in this rapidly emerging and important research area.