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Glycans as biomarkers and functional effectors of severe COVID-19

This project is supported by Croatian Science Foundation within a thematic call “Infectious Diseases Caused by Corona Viruses and the Social and Educational Aspects of the Pandemic”, IP-CORONA-2020-04.

Project acronym: GlycoCOVID
Name of the project: Glycans as biomarkers and functional effectors of severe COVID-19 (Project ID: IP-CORONA-04-2052)
Project start date: 8th July 2020
Project end date: 7th January 2022
Project Leader: Prof. Gordan Lauc
The total value of the project: 1.500.000,00 HRK
For more information, please contact: prof. Gordan Lauc, project leader,


Glycans are complex oligosaccharides attached to proteins and lipids that regulate a variety of processes, including immunity. Both the SARS-CoV-2 virus and its principal cellular target ACE2 are known to be highly glycosylated. Inter-individual diversity in glycans represents one of the main defences of all higher organisms against pathogens, and the repertoire of glycans also changes with age, especially in the age ranges that are most susceptible to severe forms of COVID-19. In addition, glycans are one of regulators of antibody effector functions and many other aspects of the immune system. However, due to their structural complexity and technical limitations for their analysis, glycans have so far not been included in any large clinical study of COVID-19.
As the new evidence is accumulating it becomes increasingly clear that the number of infected people is very large, and that severe cases and deaths are just a tip of an iceberg that is visible in this global pandemic. This indicates that severe form of COVID-19 is a very rare event that is probably caused/associated by some pre-existing factors. Old age and cardiometabolic diseases associate with severe COVID-19, but their incidence in population is too high to be used as stratifiers. We believe that glycomic data can provide important information about inter-individual differences at the molecular level that directly interacts with SARS-CoV-2. The ability to early identify people at high risk of severe COVID-19 would help guide therapeutic strategy and provide important guidance for rational organisation of healthcare, which is of utmost importance in a situation of limited availability of resources.


By analysing total plasma glycans and IgG glycans in multiple longitudinal samples of approximately 1000 mild and severe COVID cases we will address three main objectives:
(1) Evaluate host protein glycosylation as predictor of COVID-19 severity.
(2) Evaluate biological age as predictor of COVID-19 severity.
(3) Evaluate changes in total protein and IgG glycosylation as predictors of severe COVID-19.