Chundawat Receives NSF Grant For Studying Human Milk Prebiotics Biosynthesis

Dr. Shishir Chundawat from CBE Rutgers University and his collaborator from the University of Michigan, Dr. Heather Mayes, have recently been awarded a National Science Foundation (NSF) grant titled ‘Mechanism-guided enzyme engineering for fucosylated glycoconjugate synthesis’ from the Chemistry of Life Processes Program in the NSF Chemistry Division to uncover how glycosynthase enzymes synthesize prebiotic oligosaccharides or carbohydrates.

Glycosynthase enzymes fill a pressing need in research and industrial biotechnology for designer carbohydrates production. We currently lack a mechanistic understanding of how to engineer these enzymes for efficient synthesis of bespoke carbohydrates or glycans. Dr. Chundawat’s research group has recently filed patent applications on novel engineered enzyme designs for synthesis of bespoke glycans like gluco-oligosaccharides (e.g., http://techfinder.rutgers.edu/tech/Engineered_GH_for_Improved_Glycan_Polymer_Synthesis). His group has recently developed other novel methods for engineering glycosynthase enzymes and is currently in the process of submitting multiple patent applications and publications in this timely research area.

The intellectual merit of this specific NSF project lies in providing a mechanistic understanding of how specific glycosynthase enzymes catalyze creation of specific oligosaccharides, which will in turn enable rational design of enzymes to make designer carbohydrates. The broader impacts include designing efficient routes for creating human milk oligosaccharides (HMOs) that could be included in infant formula to bring the composition closer to human milk. HMOs can improve human health by promoting growth of beneficial gut bacteria and lowering incidences of other pathogenic infections. Enzyme design software developed in this work will be ultimately made publicly available as a resource for the research community. Furthermore, the work forms a basis for outreach activities to under-resourced communities in Michigan and New Jersey.

More details about this project can be found online here (https://www.nsf.gov/awardsearch/showAward?AWD_ID=1904890). More details about Dr. Chundawat’s research program can be founds online here (http://chundawat.rutgers.edu). Dr. Chundawat is seen in the picture here (in a blue lab coat) along with his senior PhD graduate student Chandra Kanth Bandi, who is currently also contributing to this new research project, along with several other lab members