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Glycosciences: the sweet spot of infection and immunity research


Admission requirements

  • Basic knowledge of Immunology, Pathogen-Host interactions, Cell Biology and Biochemistry.

  • Students should have some laboratory research experience (cell culture, biochemistry techniques).


Period: 20 November -15 December 2023.

This advanced course will provide you with detailed insights and practical working knowledge of the emerging field of glycoscience, which is rapidly becoming indispensable in fundamental and translational biomedical research.

Glycoscience is the discipline that encompasses the study of glycans and glycoconjugates that are found intracellularly, on the surface, and in secretions of all cells and (micro)organisms, including immune cells, cancer cells and pathogens. Glycans are key determinants in cell-cell interactions, in adhesion and signaling via glycan-binding receptors, as triggers or targets of innate and adaptive immune responses, and in many other biological processes. Moreover, glycosylation is highly regulated and subject to changes induced by physiological, immunological and pathological triggers. Glycobiology is therefore central to many disorders and diseases, raising a strong interest in exploitation of glycosylation and glycobiology as a source for therapeutic and diagnostic purposes.

In this course, you will gain essential knowledge of the glycosciences. We will address important and innovative topics in glycobiology (biological and functional aspects of glycosylation) and in glycomics (techniques and tools to study glycosylation).

You will be introduced to the latest concepts in glycosciences through a number of interactive lectures, short projects and exercises. You will develop your knowledge through interviews with glycobiologists and glycomics experts at various LUMC departments to prepare and present your own project hypothesis, and a proposal for implementing glycosciences in ongoing research at LUMC. You will get the opportunity to bring glycoscience in practice in hands-on research projects in immunology and host-pathogen interactions, two biomedical research fields where innovations based on glycoscience currently provide essential breakthroughs. Moreover you will obtain a working knowledge of glycomics, the portfolio of technological approaches and tools that are indispensable for studying glycosylation, including high-end techniques that have recently been developed and applied at LUMC such as glycan microarrays and mass spectrometry-based glycomics.

Over the full duration of the course you become familiar with essential glycoscience approaches and how these are applied in biomedical research, for instance in development of vaccine antigens, immune modulators and (cancer) biomarkers, in antibody function, and in the biology of host-pathogen interaction.

Tutors are primarily from the Department of Parasitology, the Department of Rheumatology and the Center for Proteomics & Metabolomics, each having strong fundamental and translational glycobiology research programs, with expert guest tutors joining from other research groups in and outside LUMC.

Week 1: An introduction to Glycosciences & Glycobiology of Diseases

  • basic concepts of glycosylation and glycobiology

  • approaches and tools to manipulate glycosylation (in cells/organisms and at the molecular level)

  • key roles of glycosylation in selected biomedical research areas: molecular immunology, cancer, host-pathogen interactions
    Students will be instructed by:

  • interactive lectures and tutorials by experts from the glycobiology field

  • journal club/work group assignment and moderated discussions

  • web-based tutorials and information

Week 2: Going in depth: Glycosciences & Glycobiology of Diseases

  • glycomics tools, with in-depth tutorials of the methodology and application of glycan microarrays and mass spectrometry-based glycomics.

  • tutorials on the role of glycosylation in infectious diseases and in inflammation, with special emphasis on rheumatoid arthritis and parasite-host interaction.

  • In silico analysis of existing glycomic data sets, and translation into biological context and conclusions
    Students will be instructed by:

  • interactive lectures and tutorials

  • demonstrations by experts from the glycobiology field

  • self-study and discussion of existing glycomics data sets

• Week 2 will be concluded with a written exam

Week 3: Practical training projects
Students will choose between research projects offered in the departments involved in the course: Parasitology, Rheumatology, Proteomics & Metabolomics.
At least 3 projects will be on offer:
a) parasite glycans in interaction with host immune cells
b) antibody responses to pathogen glycans for discovery of vaccine and diagnostic targets
c) glycosylation of auto-antibodies in rheumatoid arthritis pathogenesis
During these projects the students will closely collaborate with PhD students and post-docs involved in the actual research. This intensive in-lab training period consists mainly of hands-on practical work and is aimed at providing practical research skills in the field of glycobiology, as well as to develop insights into why and how glycans can play central roles in biology and biomedicine. Expertiments, results and data will be discussed in feedback meetings.

Week 4: Translational glycobiology and developing a project hypothesis.

Students will each interview a specific tutor or researcher from different departments to assess the need for glycobiological approaches in their current research projects. Under supervision of the tutors the students will integrate the theoretical and practical knowledge acquired in the first weeks of the course into a hypothesis and associated research plan in order to develop a research plan to be presented as a oral presentation for incorporating a glycobiology approach into actual and relevant research questions within the LUMC.

This training period will end with an interactive mini-symposium in which all students will present and discuss their proposals orally.

Course objectives

The student will obtain insight and detailed knowledge into:

  • concepts of glycobiology as part of biomedical research

  • the specific molecular (glycomics) tools available for glycobiology

  • the role that glycans play in immunology and host-pathogen interactions

  • the translational potential of glycobiology: why glycans can be targets for immunotherapy, biomarkers, vaccines, etc.

  • the current challenges in biomedical glycobiology
    The student will learn to:

  • formulate hypotheses regarding current challenges in glycobiology

  • implementing (chemical/biological) tools presented during the course into actual research

  • assess glycan targets for therapy of infectious and immunological diseases
    The overall objectives of the course include a detailed understanding of the complex glycan-mediated interactions between molecules (glycoproteins, antibodies, lectins), cells (immune cells, cancer cells) and organisms (host/pathogen), as well as the understanding of available cutting-edge biochemical and biological tools that can be used for the study of glycobiological processes.
    Glycobiology is a fascinating and innovative scientific area. It is expected that glycobiology will remain one of the main innovative and cutting-edge disciplines in fundamental and translational biomedical research in years to come.
    This course will train the students in particular in:
    Research competences:
    Critically gathering and assessing knowledge reported in the scientific literature and by others, formulating and motivating one’s own opinions. In-lab training related to a research project, defining a research question, writing a research plan, analyzing data with tutors, choosing appropriate techniques, integrate different (glycobiological) approaches in the design of a research question, design methods, and implement (glycobiology) research tools, formulate new research questions and approaches
    Professional competences:
    Commitment, motivation and drive, collaboration and science-communication with peers. Work at and integrate several assignments, different topics during the course. Presenting and writing reports and well-defined research plans.


All course and group schedules are published on MyTimeTable.

The exam dates have been determined by the Education Board and are published in MyTimeTable.
It will be announced in MyTimeTable and/or Brightspace when and how the post-exam feedback will be organized.

Mode of instruction

Lectures, self-study, work groups, in-lab training, interviews, research assignment.

Assessment method

The final mark (maximum score: 10) for this module will be calculated as follows below.

  • 40% for the online exam (end of week 2)

  • 25% for the in-lab training and presentation of in-lab research data

  • 35% for the presented research proposal

  • the journal club/work group assignments will be scored individually as pass/fail

We will assess active participation for all activities during the course and review the in-lab training, and oral presentation of the research proposal. Active participation includes your performance in the laboratory, presence/discussion at oral presentations by tutors and fellow students, and prepared oral performances. The assessment plan see is included in the course book.

To pass the overall course, students should pass each separate part of the course (score 5,5 or more, or pass).

Reading list

Will be distributed during the course.


Registration for FOS courses, H2W, Scientific Conduct, Course on Lab Animal Sciences and CRiP takes place in lottery rounds in the beginning of July. After the lottery rounds: if you want to register for a course you are kindly asked to contact the student administration at