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Iowa State chemist synthesizes carbohydrates, launches startup company

y the end of the year.

Collet said there's a need for the company's custom-order carbohydrates.

"A lot of basic research needs to be done on carbohydrates and their interactions with cells," she said. "Carbohydrates are involved in a lot of biological processes and it's still unclear exactly how they work."

And what would a better understanding produce?

Pohl said possible applications include new vaccines, new diagnostic tests for illnesses and better bio-based products.

When she talks about the new technology, Pohl likes to contrast it with studies of DNA. The ability to synthesize custom strands of proteins and nucleic acid for lab research has advanced and accelerated DNA studies.

Researchers predicted similar synthesis technologies would also work for carbohydrates, even though their structures are more complex. But researchers haven't been able to transfer three decades of DNA work into technologies that efficiently synthesize carbohydrates.

"Today biologists can mostly only dream about experiments that explore the structure and function relationships of carbohydrates for vaccine design and other more basic studies," Pohl said. "These are the types of experiments biologists now take for granted with nucleic acids and proteins."

Pohl said there's enough demand for custom-order carbohydrates and enough potential to apply research findings to eventually grow LuCELLa's sales to $20 million and higher.


Contact: Nikki Pohl
Iowa State University

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