scientist profiles

 James C. Paulson

A Global Leader in Unraveling the Mysteries of Sugars and Their Impact on Disease

Scripps Research Professor Jim Paulson has spent about half his life studying sugars , or carbohydrates, that decorate the surface of cells to better understand their roles in cell communication and human disease … and his travails have brought him to the top of his field.

Jim has been named an industry pioneer and global leader in the field of glycomics by Technology Review, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology&#82 17;s magazine of innovation. The magazine considers glycomics to be one of the top ten technologies that will change the future.

Jim is the leader of the Consortium for Functional Glycomics, an international group of some 300 participating scientists who collaboratively study the complex dynamics of protein-carbohydrate interactions in the human body. Like proteomics, the study of all the proteins produced by an organism, glycomics is important for unraveling the mysteries of the recently solved human genome because more than half of all proteins in the human body have sugar molecules attached.

In 2006, the consortium received a $40.7 million five-year “glue” grant from the National Institute of General Medical Science (NIGMS) – the second NIGMS grant the consortium has received. The first, awarded in 2001, was a five-year grant of $34 million.

“The most recent award was especially gratifying in that it was a vote of confidence that the program is doing well,” said Jim. “I take great pride in the consortium because it benefits so many researchers.”

The consortium was formed to support multi-disciplinary, multi-institutional research projects that would be considered beyond the means of any one group. It is shared by Scripps Research, the University of California, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Palo Alto Research Center, Emory University, Indiana University, and colleges, universities, institutes, and medical centers in the United Kingdom, Japan, Russia, The Netherlands, and elsewhere – the consortium represents more than 25 countries.

“It was the NIGMS idea to ‘glue’ together the work of independentl y funded investigators and to provide the funds necessary to accelerate research into this critically important field,” said Jim. “We know that sugars aid in the proper trafficking of cells in the body, and that they can modulate signaling from the outside of a cell to the inside, but what we know so far is just the tip of the iceberg. This grant will help us uncover what lies beneath. While the field is still in its infancy, there has been a major upsurge – in fact, if you look at the major journals, they all typically now contain articles and reviews on glycomics.”

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“What we know so far is just the tip of the iceberg,” says Acting President and CEO James Paulson.