In the 1980s, one of the approaches we took to determining the function of oligosaccharides was to find out how they altered in disease states. In 1985 my research group published a paper in Nature in which we showed that a change in the glycosylation of the antibody molecule correlated with the occurrence of rheumatoid arthritis. When I was interviewed on the Radio 4 Today programme and by other radio stations, it became clear that the word ‘oligosaccharide’ was not user-friendly for the vast majority of the non-scientific public. I coined the word ‘glycobiology’, and, with Tom Rademacher and Raj Parekh, members of my research team, subsequently used it in the Annual Reviews of Biochemistry in 19881. At that time I was appointed Professor of Glycobiology by Oxford University and encouraged the Oxford University Press to start the journal Glycobiology. The word ‘glycobiology’ was soon taken up around the world, where it provided a special identity to many people already working in the field. My idea was to emphasize the importance of oligosaccharides in their biological context in the hope that this would reveal their functions. In 1991, the Oxford Glycobiology Institute was opened by Fred Sanger, and together with part of the Department of Botany (of which Professor Chris Leaver, FRS, was the Head), was housed in the Rodney Porter Building.

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