Department of Biochemistry University of Oxford Department of Biochemistry
University of Oxford
South Parks Road
Oxford OX1 3QU

Tel: +44 (0)1865 613200
Fax: +44 (0)1865 613201
Image showing the global movement of lipids in a model planar membrane
Matthieu Chavent, Sansom lab
Anaphase bridges in fission yeast cells
Whitby lab
Lactose permease represented using bending cylinders in Bendix software
Caroline Dahl, Sansom lab
Epithelial cells in C. elegans showing a seam cell that failed to undergo cytokinesis
Serena Ding, Woollard lab
Collage of Drosophila third instar larva optic lobe
Lu Yang, Davis lab
First year Biochemistry students at a practical class
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Raymond Dwek
Glycobiology Institute

Co-workers: Nicole Zitzmann, Mark R. Wormald, Max Crispin

Professor Raymond A Dwek, FRS is Director of the Glycobiology Institute where there are four main groups:

  • Prof Nicole Zitzmann - Viruses  - Development of host target based antiviral strategies
  • Dr Mark R. Wormald - Structural glycobiology
  • Dr Max Crispin - Glycoprotein Therapeutics Laboratory
  • Associate Prof John Vakonakis - Structural Biology and Biophysics

Research in glycobiology has made major contributions to understanding concepts in protein folding, immunology and virology, laying the foundations for applying glycobiology to the development of novel strategies for antiviral therapeutics and vaccines.

Viruses are a major public health concern associated with considerable morbidity and mortality worldwide. Over two billion people, of which 350 million are chronically infected, have been or are infected with Hepatitis B virus (HBV); 200 million people are infected with Hepatitis C virus (HCV), and over 40 million are infected with HIV. Each of these viruses is dependent on their properly folded coat glycoproteins for their infectivity.





Iminosugar drugs that disrupt the folding of these glycoproteins are being investigated as antiviral therapeutics in the Oxford Antiviral Drug Discovery Unit. One such compound, the glucose analogue N-butyl-deoxynojirimycin (NB-DNJ), was pioneered by the Oxford Glycobiology Institute and has world-wide approval for use in treatment of glycolipid storage disorders. But NB-DNJ is also effective against HCV, HBV, and HIV and methods to improve the targeted delivery of this drug are in development. These include ER-targeting liopsomes. Building on this research, other mechanisms of inhibiting the morphogenesis (the assembly and secretion of infectious virus) of HCV are being investigated.

Knowledge of glycobiology is also being exploited in the design of a novel, antibody-based HIV vaccine. Methods to break "tolerance" to the sugars covering the virus are being explored. The basis for this is a rare neutralising antibody, obtained from a patient, that recognises clusters of sugars on the "immunologically silent" face of HIV.


  1. Journeys in science: glycobiology and other paths. Dwek, R.A. (2014), Annu Rev Biochem., 83, 1-44
  2. Emerging principles for the therapeutic exploitation of glycosylation. Dalziel, M., Crispin, M., Scanlan, C.N., Zitzmann, N. and Dwek R.A. (2014), Science, 343, 1235681
  3. N-butyldeoxynojirimycin is a broadly effective anti-HIV therapy significantly enhanced by targeted liposome delivery. S. Pollock, R.A. Dwek, D.R. Burton, and N. Zitzmann (2008) AIDS, 22, 1961-1969
  4. Exploiting the defensive sugars of HIV-1 for drug and vaccine design. C.N. Scanlan, J. Offer, N. Zitzmann and R.A. Dwek (2007) Nature 446, 1038-1045
  5. The Impact of Glycosylation on the Biological Functions of Human Immunoglobulins. Arnold, J.N., Wormald, M.R., Sim, R.B., Rudd, P.M. and Dwek, R.A. (2007) Ann. Rev. Immunol., 25, 21-50
  6. Glycobiology at Oxford a Personal View. Dwek, R.A. (2006) The Biochemist, 28, 4-7
  7. Targeting Glycosylation as a Therapeutic Approach. Dwek, R.A., Butters, T.D., Platt, F.M. and Zitzmann, N. (2001), Nature Reviews Drug Discovery, 65-75
More Publications...

Research Images


Figure 1: Structure function relationships in N-bdeoxynojirimicin. Left – structural elements important for glucosidase inhibition (with potential anti-viral activity); right – structural elements important for glucosyl-ceramide transferase inhibition (treatment of glycolipid storage disorders).


Figure 2: Zavesca, the first oral therapy for Type 1 Gaucher disease, has been in patients for over seven years.

Figure 3: Model of the HCV p7 ion channel (Partargias, et al., J. Med. Chem., 2006, 49, 648-655) Treatment with N-nonyl-deoxynojirimycin inhibits channel activity (right)


Figure 4: Liposomes are lipid-based nanoparticles that can be used for delivery of small molecules inside the cell. A human DAPI- (blue nuclei) and fluorescein- (green ER membranes) stained hepatoma cell line was incubated with rhodamine-labeled pH-sensitive (top panel) or ER targeting (bottom panel) liposomes (red) and analysed by confocal fluorescent microscopy, showing co-localisation of liposomal lipids and the ER membrane in bottom panel only.

Graduate Student and Postdoctoral Positions: No positions currently available