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Sugars have long been recognized for their role in biology and medicine and their synthesis and modifications are a constant challenge for organic chemists. However, in the world of polymer chemistry and material sciences, sugars have often been neglected. While peptides and oligonucleotides – the other two biomacromolecules – have inspired tremendous efforts in creating biohybrid or bioinspired polymers and materials, the sugars have been mainly used as a renewable resource for starting materials not taking into account their biological properties. Sugars mediate a number of biological events such as inflammation and infection via their interaction with protein receptors. However, the interaction of a single sugar ligand is very weak and Nature uses the so-called glycocluster or multivalency effect to have several sugar ligands interact simultaneously and create a strong binding event. Based on this concept, polymer chemists have synthesized glycopolymers presenting a large number of sugar ligands along a polymeric backbone, thus creating high-affinity ligands. Although the concept is fairly simple, the covalent attachment of sugar ligands to a polymeric backbone, the synthesis can be challenging, including different strategies for the conjugation of sugar ligands and the variation of the polymer chains. Tremendous progress has been made in recent years in synthesizing glycopolymers and glycomaterials. The ability of sugars to introduce biofunctionality into synthetic materials has been recognized and shown for a number of applications ranging from drug design to biosensors. However, the field is still in its infancy and many of the synthesized glycopolymers and -materials have not yet been studied for their potential properties and applications.

The chapters in this book are concerned with different classes of glycopolymers and glycomaterials and specifically focus on the different synthetic strategies that have been developed over the last few years. In the first chapter, Lindhorst focuses on the lectin structures that are the lock of Glycopolymer Code. We believe that it is crucial to understand the locking mechanism first in order to attempt to crack the code. The following chapter is concerned with the preparation of glycopolymers, where Ting and Stenzel provide an extremely detailed account of state-of-the-art synthesis techniques for glycopolymers. In the third chapter, Krannig and Schlaad provide insights into glycopolypeptides. This chapter is followed by Dondoni and Marra’s excellent introduction to glycocalixarenes and their molecular recognition. In Chapter 5, Voit and her colleagues focus on the dendritic architectures of synthetic glycan structures and their use in brain disease therapy. In Chapter 6, Chen and her colleagues discuss the glycomaterials that grow larger as we look at the self-assembly of glycopolymers and their formation of vesicles and hydrogels. In the last three chapters, the focus is concentrated on the applications of glycopolymers. In Chapter 7, Narain and his colleagues discuss glyconanoparticles and their biomedical applications. Following on, Chapter 8, by Fernández-García and Muñoz-Bonilla, then outlines the great potential for such hybrid glycomaterials in various biomedical applications. In the final chapter, Miura and Seto discuss recent literature examples on the use of glycopolymers in biosensing applications. We believe that all these various applications provide insights into Glycopolymer Code that require a more systematic approach, similar to glycomics, in order to crack Nature’s sugar code and create the Glycopolymer Code.

Overall, we hope that this book will inspire interested research students and academics alike and support their education, teaching and research and thus further promote the field of glycopolymers and glycomaterials.

We are very grateful to all authors of the chapters in this book who kindly agreed to support this project and we would like to thank them for their enthusiasm and excellent work.

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