Edinburgh academics help Scottish SME improve their sugar processing.

GlycoMar Ltd, based on the West coast of Scotland, develops important products for the human health and personal care markets.   Many of GlycoMar’s products are anti-inflammatory and can help address issues such as eczema and rhinitis. This project, funded by IBioIC, looked to improve the processing of some of the sugars used in GlycoMar’s products from sustainable sources.

Improving control of sugar chain length

Oligosaccharides are short chains of sugar molecules typically containing between 3 and 10 monosaccharide units. For GlycoMar, it is important to have strict control over the length and structure of oligosaccharides to maximise the benefits of the molecules, while reducing the risk of side effects. Academics at the University of Edinburgh and Heriot Watt University were able to help the company improve the processing and purification of these oligosaccharides, using their expertise in bioprocessing and analysis of complex mixtures.

New, scalable methods

The team took two feedstocks: one from animal tissue and one from microalgae, and tested methods to depolymerise (cut the chains) and separate them into relevant fractions. They then analysed the fractions using NMR to determine the structure of the molecules isolated. Once the team had developed the method to produce the oligosaccharides they wanted, they set about optimising the methods to purify the molecules.

A clean source of oligosaccharides

Current methods to produce oligosaccharides mostly rely on cutting up longer chains produced at an industrial scale. This is important because large polysaccharides are less desirable in health, cosmetics and nutritional applications due to their more limited bioactivity, bioabsorption / penetration issues and potential side effects. The methods developed here may allow a new way to process and purify this important group of molecules from sustainable sources, and contribute significantly to Scotland’s expert knowledge of the bioeconomy.
Following the success of this project, GlycoMar and University of Edinburgh continued their interaction through an IBioIC PhD student.

To learn more about project funding, contact projects@ibioic.com