2021 Glycobiology Significant Achievement Award
Dr. Pen Wu

Oxford is delighted to present the 2021 Glycobiology Significant Achievement Award to Dr. Peng Wu, who is an Associate Professor in the Department of Molecular Medicine at the Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, California, USA. The award was given to Dr. Wu during the Annual Meeting of the Society for Glycobiology, in San Diego, California.

Dr. Wu’s work integrates synthetic chemistry with glycobiology to invent new chemoenzymatic tools for studying the biological functions of glycans and endowing cells with new properties. Dr. Wu developed the !rst practical methods for large-scale fucoside syntheses using H. pylori α1-3-fucosyltransferase. Using this enzyme and click chemistry, he invented the first chemoenzymatic technique for the specific detection of cell-surface N-acetyllactosamine (LacNAc). Dr. Wu observed a 13-fold decrease in expression from normal lung tissues to grade one adenocarcinoma specimens, suggesting LacNAc may serve as an early diagnostic marker for lung cancer, which currently lacks early diagnostic approaches.

In a serendipitous discovery, Dr. Wu found H. pylori α1-3-fucosyltransferase is capable of transferring biopolymers, such as a full-length antibody, to LacNAc in the glycocalyx of live cells when the antibody is chemically conjugated to the enzyme’s natural donor substrate, GDP-fucose. By exploiting this unprecedented scope of substrate recognition, he developed a simple and cost-effective technique to fabricate antibody-cell conjugates as an “off-the-shelf therapeutic” for cancer immunotherapy. This discovery, in turn, led to another breakthrough: the FucoID technique for the detection and isolation of endogenous tumor-speci!c T cells that are essential for tumor control and responses to immune checkpoint blockade, but notoriously difficult to capture with immunologists’ existing toolsets. Testing the feasibility of this technique for personalized human cancer treatments is already underway.

Oxford is proud to honor Dr. Wu as this year’s Glycobiology Significant Achievement Awardee.