Awards Programs Award Winners Robert G. Spiro

2008 Rosalind Kornfeld Award goes to Robert G. Spiro


The Society for Glycobiology is pleased to announce that the recipient of the 2008 Rosalind Kornfeld Award is jointly awarded to Robert G. Spiro and Nathan Sharon. The Rosalind Kornfeld Award for Lifetime Achievement in Glycobiology was established in 2008 to honor the distinguished scientific career and service to the Society by Dr Rosalind Kornfeld. The award is given by the Society to scientists who have, over their professional lifetimes, made significant contributions with important impact on the field.


Dr. Robert G. Spiro's (Professor Emeritus Harvard Med. School and Senior Investigator Emeritus, Joslin Diabetes Center) accomplishments include broad-based fundamental studies on glycoprotein structure, function, and biosynthesis that have had profound and long-lasting impact to the field of glycobiology. Publications from the Spiro lab include over 130 primary research papers and 32 reviews providing seminal contributions to glycobiology, including synthesis and catabolism of N-glycans, O-glycan, proteoglycans, and collagen glycosylation.

Groundbreaking studies in the Spiro lab began with work on the basic structural features of N‐linked carbohydrate units, moving on to their biosynthesis and finally to their role in protein quality control. Key advances in methods development include original papers and review articles that have been widely adopted by other investigators.  Numerous review articles, including those in Annual Review of Biochemistry, Advances in Protein Chemistry, New England Journal of Medicine, Journal of Biological Chemistry, and Glycobiology have proved to be a wonderful resource for established glycobiologists as well as generating widespread interest to new investigators in the field.  A recent (2002) review in Glycobiology has been high on the "most‐read list" for several years and was in first place several times in 2007.

Highlights of research in the Spiro lab include the first studies on the glyco portion of serum proteins, including groundbreaking studies on fetuin and thyroglobulin, demonstrating both high mannose and complex glycans on the same protein. Studies on these proteins, and microheterogeneity of glycan structures on alpha2-macroglobulin, led to major insights in the assembly and processing of N‐glycans. Characterization of collagen glycosylation and basement membrane proteoglycans were also major areas of research in the Spiro lab.

In addition to mature glycan structure determination, the Spiro lab also focused on studies of dolichol-oligosaccharide precursor biosynthesis, transfer to nascent polypeptides via oligosaccharyltransferase, and early glycan trimming events in the ER as a basis for studies on ER glucosidases, exo-mannosidases, and the first identification and characterization of an endo-mannosidase involved in glycan maturation.

Among other areas of research include the characterization of released free oligosaccharides in the ER and cytosol leading to a new field of studies of glycan catabolism resulting from ER associated degradation. Sulfation of proteoglycans and N-linked glycans of thyroglobulin was also the subject of numerous publications.

The span of fundamental studies in glycobiology and groundbreaking contributions from over four decades of work clearly defines a lifetime of achievement for Dr. Spiro that has been recognized by the Society for Glycobiology with the 2008 Rosalind Kornfeld Award for Lifetime Achievement in Glycobiology.

Dr. Robert G. Spiro's acceptance address for the 2008 Rosalind Kornfeld Award