Robert J. Linhardt
New Frontiers in Glycoscience and Glycoengineering
Heparin is a prominent and widely used clinical anticoagulant prepared from animal tissue. The heparin contamination crisis in 2008 led us to examine opportunities to utilize biotechnology to engineer improved heparin products. It also highlighted challenges in maintaining food and drug safety in a global marketplace. In undertaking our bioengineered heparin project, it became clear that we lacked a full understanding of heparin’s chemistry and biology, so we initiated an artificial Golgi and a metabolic engineering project to better understand heparin biosynthesis. These projects rely on using molecular biology to engineer organisms and nanotechnology to prepare devices on which biosynthesis can take place. Our work suggests that it is now becoming possible to mimic biological systems within artificial devices. This technology also has implications in human biology in the field of glycomics. Heparin and the related heparan sulfate are particularly important in stem cell differentiation, development, and disease biology.
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Robert J. Linhardt received his PhD from Johns Hopkins University in 1979, was a postdoctoral student at MIT from 1979 to 1982, and served on the faculty at the University of Iowa from 1982 to 2003. He is currently the Ann and John H. Broadbent, Jr. '59 Senior Constellation Professor of Biocatalysis and Metabolic Engineering at Rensselaer, holding appointments in the chemistry and chemical biology, biology, chemical and biological engineering, and biomedical engineering departments. His honors include the American Chemical Society Horace S. Isbell Award, Hudson and Wolfrom awards, the AACP Volwiler Award, and the USP Award for an Innovative Response to Public Health Challenges. He is a fellow of the AAAS and one of the Scientific American Top 10. His research focuses on glycobiology, glycochemistry, and glycoengineering. He is also actively involved in the emerging field of nanobiotechnology. Professor Linhardt has published over 600 peer-reviewed manuscripts and holds over 50 patents.