Travel Grant Student Presents at Carbohydrate Bioengineering Meeting in Belgium

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Travel Grant Student Presents at Carbohydrate Bioengineering Meeting in Belgium

Cassie Bakshani, a Research Fellow at the University of Birmingham, recently used the Travel Grant from Don Whitley Scientific to travel to Ghent, Belgium, to present at the 15th Carbohydrate Bioengineering Meeting. 

We asked Cassie to share more about her work and her recent experience in Belgium.

"The Carbohydrate Bioengineering Meeting is a biennial conference bringing together glycobiologists and enzymologists from across the globe. The research I presented at CBM15 focussed on Akkermansia muciniphila and the carbohydrate active enzymes (CAZymes) encoded in its genome.

A. muciniphila is a fastidious microbial symbiont, from a relatively understudied superphylum, that resides in the mucosal layer of the large intestine. It can derive its nutrition exclusively from highly heterogenous mucin glycoproteins, which constitute a major macromolecular component of mucus. Mucins are composed of up to 80% O-glycan and their structural complexity is largely attributed to this extensive glycosylation.

Around 11% of the A. muciniphila genome comprises genes associated with mucin degradation, many of which are CAZymes. However, how these genes function together to facilitate mucin degradation has not yet been elucidated. In this project, our team functionally characterised 55 CAZymes and 12 sulfatases encoded in the A. muciniphila type strain genome, to understand how these enzymes contribute to the breakdown of mucin O-glycans and other structurally similar host glycans. We demonstrated that A. muciniphila CAZymes can act synergistically to degrade mucin O-glycans to completion, which has never before been described.

The Whitley A35 Anaerobic Workstation is critical to our research, as many of the species we work with, including Akkermansia muciniphila, are strict anaerobes. Using the A35 Workstation, we were able to complement our enzymology with growth assays and enzyme localisation studies, providing a comprehensive and holistic insight into the ecology and physiology of this unusual microbe."

CAZyme activities of Akkermansia muciniphila

We are pleased to see our workstations helping to facilitate student research and we congratulate Cassie on receiving the Don Whitley Travel Grant and presenting in Belgium. If you are interested in our travel grants, please find more details on the Travel Grant page or contact For more information on our anaerobic workstation range please see the links below or email us at


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