Proteins are the rage as targets for therapeutic development, but other molecules play pivotal roles in functions such as intercellular signaling. Carbohydrates, for example, participate in signal recognition on cell surfaces as part of glycoprotein receptors. GlycoDesign Inc. has assembled a platform for discovery of small molecule therapeutics that interfere with enzymes responsible for making cell-surface carbohydrates. Such therapeutics would modify the behavior and sensitivity of glycoprotein receptors.

According to President and CEO Jeremy Carver, glycobiological approaches to disease have been somewhat unpopular, perhaps as a result of the failure of most early efforts to develop synthetic carbohydrates for use as competitive inhibitors of glycoprotein activity. Such approaches ran into difficulties because of the high concentrations required to produce any effect.