The glycans (carbohydrates) form a diverse group of biomolecules which play active parts in most physiological processes. The field of structural glycobiology concerns the structures of the glycans themselves, the proteins which interact with them and the nature of the interactions between the two. The resulting information is important for our understanding of human health and disease, and for development of new therapeutic strategies. A series of articles is introduced based on the topics covered at the Structural Glycobiology and Human Health Biochemical Society Focused Meeting. Their subjects range from in-depth determinations of three-dimensional protein structure to broad screening techniques for glycan-protein interactions relevant to disease processes, including bacterial, parasitic and viral infections, inflammatory processes, cancer and diabetes.