Dr. Szymanski has been exploring bacterial glycomics for three decades, working on food pathogens since the early 1990s, with a particular emphasis on Campylobacter jejuni. She combines her expertise in food safety and animal health with novel therapeutic diagnostic platforms developed during her postdoctoral fellowship at the Naval Medical Research Center vaccine program (1996-2000), the key findings while employed at the National Research Council of Canada (2000-2008), and the translational advances during her tenure as an Alberta Innovates Technology Futures Scholar at the University of Alberta (2008-2016). She was the first to demonstrate that bacteria are capable of N-glycosylating proteins and is now exploiting these systems to create glycoconjugate vaccines and oral therapeutics through recombinant expression in Escherichia coli. Dr. Szymanski was also the first to demonstrate that viruses specific for bacteria express proteins that can be used as novel therapeutics in addition to their recognized diagnostic value. These viruses (bacteriophages) are the most abundant biological entity on earth (10+31) and are therefore a limitless resource for exploitation, especially in the area of glycomics.
The Szymanski laboratory is a microbial glycobiology laboratory using multidisciplinary techniques and relevant model systems to: 1) characterize bacterial glycoconjugate pathways, 2) exploit bacteriophage recognition proteins that bind these structures, and 3) understand the protective benefits of host milk oligosaccharides to develop novel therapeutics and vaccines for the prevention of diarrheal diseases and post-infectious neuropathies such as Guillain-Barré Syndrome. These studies have also expanded our knowledge of carbohydrate metabolism by the gut microbiota and the transfer of antibiotic resistance between bacteria.