Thomas Hansen is our Leiden Institute of Chemistry's nominee for the C.J. Kok Jury Award 2020.
About Thomas' research
Carbohydrates (sugars) are not only a source of energy, they also function in numerous signalling molecules, and play a role in the development of infections and cancer. For example, many viruses use sugars on the outside of the host cell to interact with it, which is key for their multiplication. Knowledge of this mechanism has led to the development of antiviral drugs based on synthetic sugar molecules. Glycobiological research is therefore promising, but synthesising this type of complex molecules is a challenge. Indeed, when sugars are coupled via a glycosylation reaction, various products can be formed. In this way, a mixture of molecules is formed, whereas only a specific type is usually desired.
‘We are finally getting a grasp on the molecular mechanism of the chemical glycosylation reaction by working on the intersection between experimental and computational sciences. This brings us closer to the broad application of carbohydrate-based vaccines and medication.’
Thomas Hansen's dissertation provides fundamental knowledge and insight into the molecular mechanisms of the glycosylation reaction and its reactive intermediaries. He used experimental and computational techniques to better understand the outcome of glycosylation reactions and to develop new glycosylation strategies. This will make future synthesis of complex carbohydrates faster and more efficient, which will ultimately benefit new glycobiological research.