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Three Professors Receive Han Sung Science Awards
Three KAIST professors swept the 2nd Han Sung Science Awards. Professor Bum-Ki Min from the Departments of Mechanical Engineering and Physics, Professor Sun-Kyu Han from the Department of Chemistry, and Professor Seung-Jae Lee from the Department of Biological Sciences won all three awards presented by the Han Sung Scholarship Foundation, which recognizes promising mid-career scientists in the fields of physics, chemistry, and biological sciences. The awards ceremony will take place on August 16 in Hwaseong. Professor Min was declared as the winner of the physics field in recognition of his outstanding research activities including searching for new application areas for metamaterials and investigating their unexplored functionalities. The metamaterials with a high index of refraction developed by Professor Min’s research team have caught the attention of scientists worldwide, as they can help develop high-resolution imaging systems and ultra-small, hyper-sensitive optical devices. The chemistry field winner, Professor Han, is the youngest awardee so far at 36 years of age. He is often described as one of the most promising next-generation Korean scientists in the field of the total synthesis of complex natural products. Given the fact that this field takes very long-term research, he is making unprecedented research achievements. He is focusing on convergent and flexible synthetic approaches that enable access to not only a single target but various natural products with structural and biosynthetic relevance as well as unnatural products with higher biological potency. Professor Lee was recognized for his contributions to the advancement of biological sciences, especially in aging research. Professor Lee’s team is taking a novel approach by further investigating complex interactions between genetic and environmental factors that affect aging, and identifying genes that mediate the effects. The team has been conducting large-scale gene discovery efforts by employing RNA sequencing analysis, RNAi screening, and chemical mutagenesis screening. They are striving to determine the functional significance of candidate genes obtained from these experiments and mechanistically characterize these genes. (END)
Wearable Robot 'WalkON Suit' Off to Cybathlon 2020
Standing upright and walking alone are very simple but noble motions that separate humans from many other creatures. Wearable and prosthetic technologies have emerged to augment human function in locomotion and manipulation. However, advances in wearable robot technology have been especially momentous to Byoung-Wook Kim, a triplegic for 22 years following a devastating car accident. Kim rejoiced after standing upright and walking again by putting on the ‘WalkON Suit,’ the wearable robot developed by Professor Kyoungchul Kong’s team. Even more, Kim won third prize in the powered exoskeleton race at Cybathlon 2016, an international cyborg Olympics hosted by ETH Zurich. Now Kim and Professor Kong’s team are all geared up for the Cybathlon Championship 2020. Professor Kong and his startup, Angel Robotics, held a kickoff ceremony for Cybathlon 2020 at KAIST on June 24. The 2020 championship will take place in Switzerland. Only pilots with complete paralysis of the legs resulting from spinal cord injuries are eligible to participate in the Cybathlon, which takes place every four years. Pilots compete against each other while completing everyday tasks using technical assistance systems in six different disciplines: a brain-computer interface race, a functional electrical stimulation bike race, a powered arm prosthesis race, a powered leg prosthesis race, a powered exoskeleton race, and a powered wheelchair race. The 2016 championship drew 66 pilots from 56 teams representing 25 countries. In the powered exoskeleton race, pilots complete everyday activities such as getting up from a sofa and overcoming obstacles such as stairs, ramps, or slopes and up to four pilots compete simultaneously on tracks to solve six tasks; and the pilot that solves the most tasks in the least amount of time wins the race. (Kim, a triplegic for 22 years demonstrates walking and climbing the stairs (below photo) wearing the WalkOn Suit during the media day on June 21 at KAIST.) Kim, who demonstrated walking and climbing the stairs wearing the WalkON Suit during the media day for the Cybathlon 2020 kickoff ceremony on June 21 at KAIST, said, “I have been confined to a wheelchair for more than 20 years. I am used to it so I feel like the wheelchair is one of my body parts. Actually, I don’t feel any big difficulties in doing everyday tasks in wheelchair. But whenever I face the fact that I will never be able to stand up with my own two legs again, I am so devastated.” He continued, “I still remember the day when I stood up with my own two legs by myself after 22 years. It was beyond description.” The market for wearable robots, especially for exoskeleton robots, is continuing to grow as the aging population has been a major challenge in almost every advanced country. The global market for these robots expects to see annual growth of 41.2% to 8.3 billion US dollars by 2025. Healthcare wearable robots for the elderly and rehabilitation take up the half of the market share followed by wearable robots for industrial and defense purposes. Professor Kong from the Department of Mechanical Engineering and his colleagues have developed two wearable robot systems in 2014: The "WalkON Suit" for complete paraplegics and “Angel Suit” for those with partial impairment in walking ability such as the elderly and rehabilitation patients. Professor Kong said after 15 years of basic research, the team is now able to develop its own distinct technologies. He said their robots are powered by non-resistant precision drives with algorithms recognizing the user’s moving intention. Incorporated with prosthetic devices technology from the Severance Rehabilitation Hospital, their control technology has led to the production of a customizable robot suit optimized for each user’s physical condition. The WalkON Suit, which boasts a maximum force of 250 Nm and maximum rotation speed of 45 RPM, gives the user high-energy efficiency modeled after the physiology of the human leg. It allows users to walk on flat ground and down stairs, climb up and down inclines, and sit and lie down. Currently the battery lasts five to six hours for locomotion and the approximate 25 kg of robot weight still remains a technical challenge to upgrade. Professor Kong’s team has grafted AR glass technology into the WalkOn Suit that one of his pilots put on for the torch relay of the PyongChang Paralympics in 2018. His team is now upgrading the WalkON Suit 4.0 for next year’s competition. Severance Rehabilitation Hospital will help the seven pilots with their training. Professor Kong said his goal is to make robots that can make people with disabilities much more independent. He stressed, “Wearable robots should be designed for each single user. We provide a very good graphical user interface so that we can design, check, and also verify our optimized design for users’ best performance.” (Seven pilots and Professor Kong (fifth from left in second row) pose with guests who joined the Cybathlon 2020 kickoff ceremony. President Shin (fifth from right) made a congratulatory remarks during the ceremony.)
Novel Via-Hole-Less Multilevel Metal Interconnection Methods
Forming reliable multi-level metal interconnections is a key technology for integrating devices into organic integrated circuits (ICs). The conventional approach, called “via-hole,” locally removes the insulator and utilizes metal interconnects through the holes. Due to the high sensitivity of organic materials to chemical solvents, heat, and photo-radiation used in conventional “via-hole” methods, alternative printing methods or laser drilling methods have been developed. However, finding a reliable and practical metal interconnection for organic ICs is still challenging. The research team of KAIST Professor Sung Gap Im and Postech Professor Kim Jae-Joon reported a new interconnection method that does not require via-hole formation, “via-hole-less metal interconnection,” in Nature Communications on June 3. Metal electrodes in different layers can be isolated from each other by patterned dielectric layers, where they then can be interconnected to others in the open area where the dielectric layer is not present. See the images below. Vapor phase deposition and in-situ patterning of dielectric layer using iCVD (initiated chemical vapor deposition), used in the “via-hole-less” method, ensure a damage-free process for organic semiconductor materials and result in outstanding performance of the organic devices as multilevel metal interconnects are reliably formed. The team successfully demonstrated three-dimensional (3D) stacking of five organic transistors and integrated circuits using the proposed via-hole-less interconnect method. See the image below. Vapor phase deposition and in-situ patterning of dielectric layer using iCVD (initiated chemical vapor deposition), used in the “via-hole-less” method, ensure a damage-free process for organic semiconductor materials and result in outstanding performance of the organic devices as multilevel metal interconnects are reliably formed. The team successfully demonstrated three-dimensional (3D) stacking of five organic transistors and integrated circuits using the proposed via-hole-less interconnect method. See the image below. Professor Kim explained, “Our proposed via-hole-less interconnect method using a selectively patterned dielectric overcomes the limitations of the previous time-consuming, one-by-one via-hole formation process and provides reliable methods for creating metal interconnects in organic ICs. We expect the via-hole-less scheme to bring advances to organic IC technology.”
Engineered Microbial Production of Grape Flavoring
(Image 1: Engineered bacteria that produce grape flavoring.) Researchers report a microbial method for producing an artificial grape flavor. Methyl anthranilate (MANT) is a common grape flavoring and odorant compound currently produced through a petroleum-based process that uses large volumes of toxic acid catalysts. Professor Sang-Yup Lee’s team at the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering demonstrated production of MANT, a naturally occurring compound, via engineered bacteria. The authors engineered strains of Escherichia coli and Corynebacetrium glutamicum to produce MANT through a plant-based engineered metabolic pathway. The authors tuned the bacterial metabolic pathway by optimizing the levels of AAMT1, the key enzyme in the process. To maximize production of MANT, the authors tested six strategies, including increasing the supply of a precursor compound and enhancing the availability of a co-substrate. The most productive strategy proved to be a two-phase extractive culture, in which MANT was extracted into a solvent. This strategy produced MANT on the scale of 4.47 to 5.74 grams per liter, a significant amount, considering that engineered microbes produce most natural products at a scale of milligrams or micrograms per liter. According to the authors, the results suggest that MANT and other related molecules produced through industrial processes can be produced at scale by engineered microbes in a manner that would allow them to be marketed as natural one, instead of artificial one. This study, featured at the Proceeding of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA on May 13, was supported by the Technology Development Program to Solve Climate Changes on Systems Metabolic Engineering for Biorefineries from the Ministry of Science and ICT. (Image 2. Overview of the strategies applied for the microbial production of grape flavoring.)
Research Day Highlights Most Outstanding Research Achievements
Professor Byung Jin Cho from the School of Electrical Engineering was selected as the Grand Research Prize Winner in recognition of his innovative research achievement in the fields of nano electric and flexible energy devices during the 2019 KAIST Research Day ceremony held on April 23 at the Chung Kunmo Conference Hall. The ten most outstanding research achievements from the past year were also awarded in the three areas of Research, Innovation, Convergence Researches. Professor Cho is an internationally recognized researcher in the field of future nano and energy device technology. Professor Cho’s team has continued to research on advanced CMOS (complementary metal-oxide semiconductors). CMOS has become his key research topic over the past three decades. In 2014, he developed a glass fabric-based thermoelectric generator, which is extremely light and flexible and produces electricity from the heat of the human body. It is so flexible that the allowable bending radius of the generator is as low as 20 mm. There are no changes in performance even if the generator bends upward and downward for up to 120 cycles. His wearable thermoelectric generator was selected as one of the top ten most promising digital technologies by the Netexplo Forum in 2015. He now is working on high-performance and ultra-flexible CMOS IC for biomedical applications, expanding his scope to thermal haptic technology in VR using graphene-CMOS hybrid integrated circuits; to self-powered wireless sensor nodes and self-powered ECG system using wearable thermoelectric generators . In his special lecture at the ceremony, Professor Cho stressed the importance of collaboration in making scientific research and presented how he moved to future devices after focusing on scaling the devices. “When I started the research on semiconductors, I focused on how to scale the device down as much as possible. For decades, we have conducted a number of procedures to produce tiny but efficient materials. Now we have shifted to develop flexible thermoelements and wearable devices,” said Professor Cho. “We all thought the scaling down is the only way to create value-added technological breakthroughs. Now, the devices have been scaled down to 7nm and will go down to 5 nm soon. Over the past few years, I think we have gone through all the possible technological breakthroughs for reducing the size to 5nm. The semiconductor devices are made of more 1 billion transistors and go through 1,000 technological processes. So, there won’t be any possible way for a single genius to make a huge breakthrough. Without collaboration with others, it is nearly impossible to make any new technological breakthroughs.” Professor Cho has published more than 240 papers in renowned academic journals and presented more than 300 papers at academic conferences. He has also registered approximately 50 patents in the field of semiconductor device technology. The top ten research highlights of 2018 as follows: - Rydberg-Atom Quantum Simulator Development by Professor Jaewook Ahn and Heung-Sun Sim from the Department of Physics - From C-H to C-C Bonds at Room Temperature by Professor Mu-Hyun Baik from the Department of Chemistry - The Role of Rodlike Counterions on the Interactions of DNAs by Professor Yong Woon Kim of the Graduate School of Nanoscience and Technology - The Medal Preoptic Area Induces Hunting-Like Behaviors to Target Objects and Prey by Professor Daesoo Kim from the Department of Biological Sciences - Identification of the Origin of Brain Tumors and New Therapeutic Strategy by Professor Jeong Ho Lee from the Graduate School of Medical Science and Engineering - The Linear Frequency Conversion of Light at a Spatiotemporal Boundary by Professor Bumki Min from the Department of Mechanical Engineering - An Industrial Grade Flexible Transparent Force Touch Sensor by Professor Jun-Bo Yoon from the School of Electrical Engineering - The Detection and Clustering of Mixed-Type Defect Patterns in Wafer Bin Maps by Professor Heeyoung Kim from the Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering - The Development of a Reconfigurable Spin-Based Logic Device by Professor Byong-Guk Park from the Department of Materials Science and Engineering - The Development of a Miniaturized X-Ray Tube Based on Carbon Nanotube and Electronic Brachytherapy Device by Professor Sung Oh Cho from the Department of Nuclear and Quantum Engineering Professor YongKeun Park from the Department of Physics and Professor In-Chel Park from the School of Electrical Engineering received the Research Award. For the Innovation Award, Professor Munchurl Kim from the School of Electrical Engineering was the recipient and the Convergence Research Awards was conferred to Professor Sung-Yool Choi from the School of Electrical Engineering, Professor Sung Gap Im from the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, and Professor SangHee Park from the Department of Materials Science and Engineering during the ceremony. For more on KAIST’s Top Research Achievements and Highlight of 2018, please refer to the attached below. click.
KAIST-KU Joint Research Center for Smart Healthcare & Transportation
(President Shin shakes hands with KU acting Presidedent Arif Al Hammdi at the KAIST-KU Joint Research Center opening ceremony on April 8.) KAIST opened the KAIST-Khalifa University Joint Research Center with Khalifa University on April 8. The opening ceremony was held at Khalifa University and was attended by President Sung-Chul Shin and Khalifa University Acting President Arif Al Hammadi. The new research center reflects the evolution of the long-established partnership between the two institutions. The two universities have already made very close collaborations in research and education in the fields of nuclear and quantum engineering. The launch of this center expanded their fields of collaboration to smart healthcare and smart transportation, key emerging sectors in the Fourth Industrial Revolution. President Shin signed an MOU with the UAE Minister of State for Advanced Science Sarah Amiri and Khalifa University to expand mutual collaboration in technology development and fostering human capital last year. The center will conduct research and education on autonomous vehicles, infrastructure for autonomous vehicle operation, wireless charging for electric vehicles, and infrastructure for electric autonomous vehicles. As for smart healthcare, the center will focus on healthcare robotics as well as sensors and wearable devices for personal healthcare services. President Shin, who accompanied a research team from the Graduate School of Green Transportation, said, “We are very delighted to enter into this expanded collaboration with KU. This partnership justifies our long-standing collaboration in the areas of emerging technologies in the Fourth Industrial Revolution while fostering human capital.” KU Acting President Arif Al Hammadi added, “The outcome of these research projects will establish the status of both institutions as champions of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, bringing benefits to our communities. We believe the new research center will further consolidate our status as a globally active, research-intensive academic institution, developing international collaborations that benefit the community in general.”
Distinguished Professor Sang Yup Lee Honored with the 23rd NAEK Award
(Distinguished Professor Sang Yup Lee from the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering) Distinguished Professor Sang Yup Lee from the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering was honored to be the laureate of the 23rd NAEK Award. The NAEK (National Academy of Engineering of Korea) Award was instituted in 1997 to honor and recognize engineers who have made significant contributions to the development of the engineering and technology field at universities, industries, and institutions. Every year, it is conferred to only one person who has achieved original and world-leading research that has led to national development. Distinguished Professor Lee is a pioneering scholar of the field of systems metabolic engineering and he was recognized for his significant achievements in the biochemical industry by developing novel microbial bioprocesses. In particular, he is globally renowned for biological plastic synthesis, making or decomposing polymers with microorganisms instead of using fossil resources. He has produced numerous high-quality research breakthroughs in metabolic and systems engineering. In 2016, he produced an easily degradable plastic with Escherichia coli (E. coli). In 2018, he successfully produced aromatic polyesters, the main material for PET (poly ethylene terephthalate) from E. coli strains. He also identified microorganism structures for PET degradation and improved its degradability with a novel variant. His research was ranked number one in the research and development division of Top Ten Science and Technology News 2018 announced by Korean Federation of Science & Technology Societies. He is one of highly cited researchers (HCR) ranked in the top 1% by citations for their field by the Clarivate Analytics.
OUIC Presents the Six Most Promising Techs Transferrable to Local SMEs
KAIST will showcase the six most promising technologies for small and medium enterprises (SMEs) on November 14 in the Academic Cultural Complex. To strengthen the competitive edge of local SMEs in Daejeon, the Office of University-Industry made a survey of their technological needs and came up with the six most promising technologies. Developers will introduce their technologies during the session.Besides the introduction of the promising technologies, the session will also provide a program named University to Business (U2B) to match up technologies according to the SMEs’ needs. SMEs who wish to engage in technology transfers can receive counseling and other support programs during the session.First, Professor Seok-Hyung Bae from the Department of Industrial Design will present a technology for controlling cooperation robots. Professor Bae inserted flexible materials between the controllers to allow robots to use both hands stably and operate more accurately and swiftly. It can be applied to automatic robots, industrial robots, and service robots.Professor Hyun Myung from the Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering will demonstrate a robot navigation system in a dynamic indoor and outdoor environment, which can be applied to robotics in logistics, smart factories, and autonomous vehicles. Providing robust simultaneous localization and mapping systems, this technology shows high-performing navigation with low-cost sensors.Meanwhile, Professor Siyoung Choi from the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering will introduce a technology for forming stable adhesive emulsions. An emulsion is a stable mixture of water and oil. Conventionally, a small amount of surfactant is added to stabilize an emulsion. Here, Professor Choi developed a stable emulsion system without using any chemical substances. This technology can be applied to various fields, including the cosmetics, pharmaceutical, semiconductor, and painting industries. The session will also present smart IoTs platform technology developed by Professor Jinhong Yang from the KAIST Institute for IT Convergence. His technology minimizes errors occurring when multiple IoT devices are connected simultaneously. Professor Yong Keun Park from the Department of Physics will introduce a technology for measuring glycated hemoglobin by using the optical properties of red blood cells. This technology can be applied to make low-cost, small-sized measuring equipment. It can also be used for vitro diagnoses including diabetes, cardiovascular disorders, tumors, kidney disease, and infectious diseases. Professor Yong Man Ro from the School of Electrical Engineering will show technology for biometric access control. Conventional technologies for face recognition fall behind other biometrics. Professor Ro and his team developed a facial dynamics interpreting network which allows very accurate facial recognition by interpreting the relationships between facial local dynamics and estimating facial traits. This technology can be applied to security and communication in finance, computers, and information system.KAIST President Sung-Chul Shin said, “KAIST will continue to support SMEs to have stronger competitiveness in the market. Through technology transfer, we will drive innovation in technological commercialization where a university’s research and development creates economic value.”
A Novel Biosensor to Advance Diverse High-Level Production of Microbial Cell Factories
A research group at KAIST presented a novel biosensor which can produce diverse, high-level microbial cell factories. The biosensor monitors the concentration of products and even intermediates when new strains are being developed. This strategy provides a new platform for manufacturing diverse natural products from renewable resources. The team succeeded in creating four natural products of high-level pharmaceutical importance with this strategy. Malonyl-CoA is a major building block for many value-added chemicals including diverse natural products with pharmaceutical importance. However, due to the low availability of malonyl-CoA in bacteria, many malonyl-CoA-derived natural products have been produced by chemical synthesis or extraction from natural resources that are harmful to the environment and are unsustainable. For the sustainable biological production of malonyl-CoA-derived natural products, increasing the intracellular malonyl-CoA pool is necessary. To this end, the development of a robust and efficient malonyl-CoA biosensor was required to monitor the concentration of intracellular malonyl-CoA abundance as new strains are developed. Metabolic engineering researchers at KAIST addressed this issue. This research reports the development of a simple and robust malonyl-CoA biosensor by repurposing a type III polyketide synthase (also known as RppA), which produces flaviolin, a colorimetric indicator of malonyl-CoA. Subsequently, the RppA biosensor was used for the rapid and efficient colorimetric screening of gene manipulation targets enabling enhanced malonyl-CoA abundance. The screened beneficial gene targets were employed for the high-level production of four representative natural products derived from malonyl-CoA. Compared with the previous strategies, which were expensive and time-consuming, the new biosensor could be easily applied to industrially relevant bacteria including Escherichia coli, Pseudomonas putida, and Corynebacterium glutamicum to enable a one-step process. The study employs synthetic small regulatory RNA (sRNA) technology to rapidly and efficiently reduce endogenous target gene expression for improved malonyl-CoA production. The researchers constructed an E. coli genome-scale synthetic sRNA library targeting 1,858 genes covering all major metabolic genes in E. coli. This library was employed with the RppA biosensor to screen for gene targets which are believed to be beneficial for enhancing malonyl-CoA accumulation upon their expression knockdown. From this colorimetric screening, 14 gene targets were selected, all of which were successful at significantly increasing the production of four natural products (6-methylsalicylic acid, aloesone, resveratrol, and naringenin). Although specific examples are demonstrated in E. coli as a host, the researchers showed that the biosensor is also functional in P. putida and C. glutamicum, industrially important representative gram-negative and gram-positive bacteria, respectively. The malonyl-CoA biosensor developed in this research will serve as an efficient platform for the rapid development of strains capable of producing natural products crucial for the pharmaceutical, chemical, cosmetics, and food industries. An important aspect of this work is that the high-performance strains constructed in this research were developed rapidly and easily by utilizing the simple approach of colorimetric screening, without involving extensive metabolic engineering approaches. 6-Methylsalicylic acid (an antibiotic) could be produced to the highest titer reported for E. coli, and the microbial production of aloesone (a precursor of aloesin, an anti-inflammatory agent/whitening agent) was achieved for the first time. “A sustainable process for producing diverse natural products using renewable resources is of great interest. This study represents the development of a robust and efficient malonyl-CoA biosensor generally applicable to a wide range of industrially important bacteria. The capability of this biosensor for screening a large library was demonstrated to show that the rapid and efficient construction of high-performance strains is feasible. This research will be useful for further accelerating the development process of strains capable of producing valuable chemicals to industrially relevant levels,” said Distinguished Professor Sang Yup Lee of the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, who led the research. This study entitled “Repurposing type III polyketide synthase as a malonyl-CoA biosensor for metabolic engineering in bacteria,” was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS) on October 02. PhD students Dongsoo Yang and Won Jun Kim, MS student Shin Hee Ha, research staff Mun Hee Lee, Research Professor Seung Min Yoo, and Distinguished Professor Sang Yup Lee of the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering and Dr. Jong Hyun Choi of the Applied Microbiology Research Center at the Korea Research Institute of Bioscience and Biotechnology (KRIBB) participated in this research. Figure: Type III polyketide synthase (RppA) as a malonyl-CoA biosensor. RppA converts five molecules of malonyl-CoA into one molecule of red-colored flaviolin. This schematic diagram shows the overall conceptualization of the malonyl-CoA biosensor by indicating that higher malonyl-CoA abundance leads to higher production and secretion of flaviolin, resulting in a deeper red color of the culture. This system was employed for the enhanced production of four representative natural products (6-methylsalicylic acid, aloesone, resveratrol, and naringenin) from engineered E. coli strains.
Distinguished Professor Lee Receives 2018 George Washington Carver Award
(Distinguished Professor Lee) Distinguished Professor Sang Yup Lee from the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering will become the 11th recipient of the George Washington Carver Award. The award ceremony will be held during the 2018 Biotechnology Innovation Organization (BIO) World Congress on Industrial Biotechnology from July 16 through 19 at the Pennsylvania Convention Center in Philadelphia. The annual Carver award recognizes an individual who has made a significant contribution to building the bio-based economy by applying industrial biotechnology to create environmentally sustainable products. It serves as a lasting memorial to the original vision of George Washington Carver who, over a century ago, pioneered bio-based products, materials, and energy derived from renewable agricultural feedstock. Previous recipients include the founder and CEO of POET Jeff Broin, the CEO of DuPont Ellen Kullman, and Professor Gregory Stephanopoulos at MIT. Professor Lee is a pioneering scholar of systems metabolic engineering, leveraging technology to develop microbial bioprocesses for the sustainable and environment-friendly production of chemicals, fuels, and materials from non-food renewable biomass. He also serves as the dean of the multi-and interdisciplinary research center hub, KAIST Institute.Through his work, Professor Lee has garnered countless achievements, including being one of only 13 people in the world elected as a foreign member of both the National Academy of Sciences USA and the National Academy of Engineering USA. He has actively promoted the importance of industrial biotechnology through engagement with the public, policymakers, and decision makers around the world. He currently serves as the co-chairman of the Global Future Council on Biotechnology for the World Economic Forum and served as the Chairman of the Emerging Technologies Council and Biotechnology Council for the World Economic Forum. Upon the award announcement, Dr. Brent Erickson, executive vice president of BIO’s Industrial & Environmental Section lauded Professor Lee’s achievement, saying “Dr. Lee has advanced the bio-based economy by developing innovative products and processes that are sustainable and environmentally friendly. In doing so, he has become a leader in advocating on the importance of industrial biotechnology. His contributions to the advancement of the industry are a continuation of the legacy left behind by George Washington Carver.” Professor Lee thanked his research team who has worked together for the past few decades, adding, “Industrial biotechnology is becoming increasingly important to help achieve the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. We should continue to work together to advance the field and establish a solid foundation for the sustainable future.” The George Washington Carver Award is sponsored by the Iowa Biotechnology Association. Joe Hrdlicka, executive director of the Iowa Biotechnology Association, said, “Dr. Sang Yup Lee’s significant contributions to the advancement of industrial biotechnology make him the perfect recipient for the George Washington Carver Award. Having published more than 575 peer-reviewed papers, contributed to 82 books, and holding 636 patents, the culmination of Dr. Lee’s work has led to the establishment of sustainable systems for bio-based production of chemicals, fuels, and materials, thus reducing environmental impact and improving quality of life for all.”
The Center for Anthropocene Studies (CAS) Opens
KAIST will start Anthropocene research, a convergence field of study, to address issues related to the commencement of human activities that have had scientific, industrial, and economic impacts on the Earth’s ecosystem. The National Research Foundation (NRF) of Korea endorsed the KAIST Center for Anthropocene Studies as its Convergence Research Center project. Anthropocene refers to a new geological age in which various polluting materials that humans have made during the post-industrial revolution era have made a significant impact on the Earth and the lives of humankind. The studies expand the diverse socio-economic and environmental sectors for responding to climate change, natural disasters, ecological destruction, the polarization of the inequality and wealth, and many others. The KAIST research group at the center, in collaboration with the Graduate School of Science and Technology Policy, the Graduate School of Culture Technology, the School of Humanities & Social Sciences, the Department of Industrial Design, the School of Electrical Engineering, the Satellite Technology Research Center (SaRTec), and the KAIST Initiative for Disaster Studies will conduct multidisciplinary research to address intriguing challenges with complex but creative approaches incorporating the fields of engineering, socioeconomics, and art. The group will investigate topics such as▲ surface and marine changes to the Earth by applying satellite data ▲disaster prediction and governance system building through AI modeling ▲sustainable housing, transportation, and lifestyles ▲ engineering and artistic approaches for envisioning a new future for humankind and the Earth. Professor Buhm Soon Park, who is in charge of the center, said, “This pioneering research work will inspire the re-creation of a new paradigm of convergence studies in science, engineering, humanities, and social science. We will contribute to making the world better by designing new technologies and social policies.
Recombinant E. Coli As a Biofactory for the Biosynthesis of Diverse Nanomaterials
(Distinguished Professor Lee and PhD candidate Choi) A metabolic research group at KAIST and Chung-Ang University in Korea has developed a recombinant E. coli strain that biosynthesizes 60 different nanomaterials covering 35 elements on the periodic table. Among the elements, the team could biosynthesize 33 novel nanomaterials for the first time, advancing the forward design of nanomaterials through the biosynthesis of various single and multi-elements. The study analyzed the nanomaterial biosynthesis conditions using a Pourbaix diagram to predict the producibility and crystallinity. Researchers studied a Pourbaix diagram to predict the stable chemical species of each element for nanomaterial biosynthesis at varying levels of reduction potential (Eh) and pH. Based on the Pourbaix diagram analyses, the initial pH of the reaction was changed from 6.5 to 7.5, resulting in the biosynthesis of various crystalline nanomaterials that were previously amorphous or not synthesized. This strategy was extended to biosynthesize multi-element nanomaterials. Various single and multi-element nanomaterials biosynthesized in this research can potentially serve as new and novel nanomaterials for industrial applications such as catalysts, chemical sensors, biosensors, bioimaging, drug delivery, and cancer therapy. A research group consisting of PhD candidate Yoojin Choi, Associate Professor Doh Chang Lee, and Distinguished Professor Sang Yup Lee of the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at KAIST and Associate Professor Tae Jung Park of the Department of Chemistry at Chung-Ang University reported the synthesis. This study, entitled “Recombinant Escherichia coli as a biofactory for various single- and multi-element nanomaterials,” was published online in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS) on May 21. A recent successful biosynthesis of nanomaterials under mild conditions without requiring physical and chemical treatments has triggered the exploration of the full biosynthesis capacity of a biological system for producing a diverse range of nanomaterials as well as for understanding biosynthesis mechanisms for crystalline versus amorphous nanomaterials. There has been increased interest in synthesizing various nanomaterials that have not yet been synthesized for various applications including semiconducting materials, enhanced solar cells, biomedical materials, and many others. This research reports the construction of a recombinant E. coli strain that co-expresses metallothionein, a metal binding protein, and phytochelatin synthase that synthesizes the metal-binding peptide phytochelatin for the biosynthesis of various nanomaterials. Subsequently, an E. coli strain was engineered to produce a diverse range of nanomaterials, including those never biosynthesized before, by using 35 individual elements from the periodic table and also by combining multi-elements. Distinguished Professor Lee said, “An environmentally-friendly and sustainable process is of much interest for producing nanomaterials by not only chemical and physical methods but biological synthesis. Moreover, there has been much attention paid to producing diverse and novel nanomaterials for new industrial applications. This is the first report to predict the biosynthesis of various nanomaterials, by far the largest number of various single- and multi-elements nanomaterials. The strategies used for nanomaterial biosynthesis in this research will be useful for further diversifying the portfolio of nanomaterials that can be manufactured.” Figure: The biosynthesis of diverse nanomaterials using recombinant E. coli. This schematic diagram shows the overall conceptualization of the biosynthesis of various single and multi-element nanomaterials using recombinant E. coli under incubation with corresponding elemental precursors. The 35 elements that were tested to biosynthesize nanomaterials are shown in black circles on the periodic table.
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