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Geert-Jan Boons

Blurred image of a green laser used as background for stylistic purposes.
Distinguished Professor in Biochemical Science
Glycoconjugate Synthesis and Chemical Biology, Glycoconjugates in Animal Development and Disease, Tenure-Track Faculty

Geert-Jan Boons is the UGA Foundation Distinguished Professor in Biochemical Sciences at the Department of Chemistry and the Complex Carbohydrate Research Center (CCRC) of the University of Georgia (USA) and Professor and Chair of the Department of Medicinal and Biological Chemistry of Utrecht University (The Netherlands). He received a B.S. and Ph.D. in Chemistry from the Leiden University (The Netherlands) and spent seven years in the UK, first as a postdoctoral fellow at Imperial College, London, and the University of Cambridge, and then as a lecturer and professor at the University of Birmingham. In 1998, he joined the faculty of the Department of Chemistry and CCRC of the University of Georgia, and in 2015 he accepted a secondary academic appointment at Utrecht University (Netherlands). Among others, he has received the Creativity in Carbohydrate Science Award by the European Carbohydrate Association (2003), the Horace Isbell Award by the American Chemical Society (ACS) (2004), the Roy L. Whistler International Award in Carbohydrate Chemistry by the International Carbohydrate Organization (2014), the Hudson Award (2015), and the Cope Mid-Career Scholar Award from ACS (2016).

  • 1987 First Degree (equivalent to M.S.), Chemistry, State University of Leiden, The Netherlands
  • 1991 Ph.D., Synthetic Carbohydrate Chemistry, State University of Leiden, The Netherlands  (advisor: Prof. J.H. van Boom)
  • 1992 Postdoctoral Research Assistant, Imperial College, London, UK (Prof. S.V. Ley)
  • 1993 Postdoctoral Research Assistant, University of Cambridge, UK (Prof. S.V. Ley)


Research Interests:

Protein- and lipid-bound saccharides play essential roles in many molecular processes impacting eukaryotic biology and disease. Progress in glycoscience is, however, hampered by the inaccessibility of well-defined oligosaccharides and glycoconjugates for biological and biomedical studies. My laboratory is addressing these issues by developing chemical and chemoenzymatic methods and strategies for complex oligosaccharide and glycoconjugate synthesis. The new methodologies are being applied for synthesis of biological important oligosaccharides such as N- and O-glycans, ganglio-oligosaccharides, heparan sulfates, tumor-associated antigens, and capsular polysaccharides of pathogenic bacteria. A hallmark of my program is to employ synthesized target molecules for biological and biomedical explorations and in particular, our team is making contributions to the understanding of infectious, immunological and inflammatory processes mediated by complex glycans and glycoconjugates at a molecular level. This information, in turn, is being exploited for the design of fully synthetic immuno-modulators, vaccines and anti-inflammatory and cancer drugs. A highlight of such program was the design, chemical synthesis, and immunological examination of three-component vaccine candidates that offer a prospect to be employed as a therapeutic vaccine for many types of epithelial cancer. Synthetic glycans are also being used for microarray development and screening efforts have identified lead compounds that are being developed as glycomimetics for the treatment of various diseases. The Boons group is also making substantial contributions to bioconjugation and the development of methods for visualization of glycoconjugates of living cells.

Selected Publications:

Liu L, Chopra P, Li X, Bouwman KM, Tompkins SM, Wolfert MA, Vries de RP, Boons GJ (2021) Heparan sulfate proteoglycans as attachment factor for SARS-CoV-2. ACS Cent. Sci. 7(6):1009-1018

Li Z, Lang Y, Liu L, Bunyatov MI, Sarmiento AI, de Groot RJ, Boons GJ (2021) Synthetic O-Acetylated sialosides facilitate functional receptor identification for human respiratory viruses. Nat. Chem. 13(5): 496-503

Broszeit K, Beek RJ van, Unione L, Bestebroer TM, Chapla D., Yang JY, Moremen KW, Herfst S, Fouchier RAM, Vries RP de, Boons GJ (2021) Glycan remodeled erythrocytes facilitate antigenic characterization of recent A/H3N2 influenza viruses. Nat. Commun. 12(1): 5449

Chopra P, Joshi A, Wu J, Lu W, Yadavalli T, Wolfert MA, Shukla D, Zaia J, Boons GJ (2021) 3-O-Sulfation of heparan sulfate modulates protein binding and lyase degradation. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 118(3): e2012935118

Li T, Wolfert MA, Wei N, Huizinga R, Jacobs BC, Boons GJ (2020) Chemoenzymatic synthesis of Campylobacter jejuni lipo-oligosaccharide core domains to examine Guillain-Barré syndrome serum antibody specificities. J. Am. Chem. Soc. 142(46): 19611-19621

Li T, Liu L, Wei N, Yang JY, Chapla DG, Moremen KW, Boons GJ (2019) An automated platform for the enzyme-mediated assembly of complex oligosaccharides. Nat. Chem. 11(3): 229-236.

Liu L, Prudden AR, Capicciotti CJ, Bosman GP, Yang JY, Chapla DG, Moremen KW, Boons GJ (2019) Streamlining the chemoenzymatic synthesis of complex N-glycans by a stop and go strategy. Nat. Chem. 11(2): 161-169

Prudden AR, Liu L, Capicciotti CJ, Wolfert MA, Wang S, Gao Z, Meng L, Moremen KW, Boons GJ (2017) Synthesis of asymmetrical multiantennary human milk oligosaccharides. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 114(27): 6954-6959.

Wang Z, Chinoy Z, Ambre S, Peng W, McBride R, de Vries RP, Glushka J, Paulson JC, Boons GJ (2013) A general strategy for the chemoenzymatic synthesis of asymmetrically branched N-glycans. Science 341 (6144): 379-383.

My Graduate Students

Ashley Carter

Graduate Student

Dahai Ding

Graduate Student

Kyle Minder

Graduate Student

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Head of Chemistry: Prof. Jason Locklin