Carbohydrates are involved in a variety of fundamental biological processes, e.g. cellular differentiation, embryonic development and fertilization. They are also involved in numerous pathological conditions such as e.g. bacterial and viral infections, inf lammatory diseases and cancer and therefore offer attractive pharmaceutical and diagnostic applications. In contrast to the genomic and proteomic area, no large data collections for carbohydrates have been compiled so far. The availability of such compreh ensive databases, however, will be a prerequisite to successfully perform large-scale glycomics projects aiming to decipher new, so far unknown biological functions of glycans. For this purpose, common protocols and quality criteria for the generation of e xperimental data and guidelines of good practise for the establishment of databases are indispensable, especially for NMR-, MS- and HPLC-data, which are the key technologies for the identification and analysis of carbohydrates. The Internet offers the un ique chance to constitute a global and interactive peer-to-peer communication for scientific data. The outlined initiative aims to provide a tool for streamlining European research in glycobiology through the development of bioinformatics standards, databa ses, algorithms and software components. To guarantee maximal synergetic effects other available bioinformatics and biomedical resources will be linked to the newly created databases and cross-referenced in an efficient way. The interpretation of MS- and NMR spectra as well as HPLC profiles of glycans is extremely complicated without appropriate reference data. The development of appropriate algorithms, which enable a rapid and reliable automatic annotation and interpretation of MS- and NMR-spectra, is a major aim of this design study. This effort is comparable to the automation of nucleic acid sequencing that enabled the large scale genomics studies and will lead to a comparable impetus for glycomics.
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