The multifunctional, transmembrane glycoprotein human CD38 catalyses the synthesis of three key Ca2+-mobilising messengers, including cyclic adenosine 5′-diphosphate ribose (cADPR), and CD38 knockout studies have revealed the relevance of the related signalling pathways to disease. To generate inhibitors of CD38 by total synthesis, analogues based on the cyclic inosine 5′-diphosphate ribose (cIDPR) template were synthesised. In the first example of a sugar hybrid cIDPR analogue, “L-cIDPR”, the natural “northern” N1-linked D-ribose of cADPR was replaced by L-ribose. L-cIDPR is surprisingly still hydrolysed by CD38, whereas 8-Br-L-cIDPR is not cleaved, even at high enzyme concentrations. Thus, the inhibitory activity of L-cIDPR analogues appears to depend upon substitution of the base at C-8; 8-Br-L-cIDPR and 8-NH2-L-cIDPR inhibit CD38-mediated cADPR hydrolysis (IC50 7 μM and 21 µM respectively) with 8-Br-L-cIDPR over 20-fold more potent than 8-Br-cIDPR. In contrast, L-cIDPR displays a comparative 75-fold reduction in activity, but is only ca 2-fold less potent than cIDPR itself. Molecular modelling was used to explore the interaction of the CD38 catalytic residue Glu-226 with the “northern” ribose. We propose that Glu226 still acts as the catalytic residue even for an L-sugar substrate. 8-Br-L-cIDPR potentially binds non-productively in an upside-down fashion. Results highlight the key role of the “northern” ribose in the interaction of cADPR with CD38.