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KAIST Professors Sweep the Best Science and Technology Award
(Distinguished Professors Sang Yup Lee (left) and Kyu-Young Whang) Distinguished Professors Sang Yup Lee from the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering and Kyu-Young Whang of the College of Computing were selected as the winners of the "2017 Korea Best Science and Technology Award" by the Ministry of Science, ICT and Future Planning (MSIP) and the Korea Federation of Science and Technology Societies. The award, which was established in 2003, is the highest honor bestowed to the two most outstanding scientists in Korea annually. This is the first time that KAIST faculty members have swept the award since its founding. Distinguished Professor Lee is renowned for his pioneering studies of system metabolic engineering, which produces useful chemicals by utilizing microorganisms. Professor Lee has developed a number of globally-recognized original technologies such as gasoline production using micro-organisms, a bio-butanol production process, microbes for producing nylon and plastic raw materials, and making native-like spider silk produced in metabolically engineering bacterium which is stronger than steel but finer than human hair. System metabolism engineering was also selected as one of the top 10 promising technologies in the world in 2016 by the World Economic Forum. Selected as one of the world’s top 20 applied bioscientists in 2014 by Nature Biotechnology, he has many ‘first’ titles in his academic and research careers. He was the first Asian to win the James Bailey Award (2016) and Marvin Johnson Award (2012), the first Korean elected to both the US National Academy of Science (NAS) and the National Academy of Engineering (NAE) this year. He is the dean of KAIST institutes, a multi and interdisciplinary research institute at KAIST. He serves as co-chair of the Global Council on Biotechnology and as a member of the Global Future Council on the Fourth Industrial Revolution at the World Economic Forum. Distinguished Professor Whang, the first recipient in the field of computer science in this award, has been recognized for his lifetime achievement and contributions to the development of the software industry and the spreading of information culture. He has taken a pioneering role in presenting novel theories and innovative technologies in the field of database systems such as probabilistic aggregation, multidimensional indexing, query, and database and information retrieval. The Odysseus database management system Professor Hwang developed has been applied in many diverse fields of industry, while promoting the domestic software industry and its technical independence. Professor Hwang is a fellow at the American Computer Society (ACM) and life fellow at IEEE. Professor Whang received the ACM SIGMOD Contributions Award in 2014 for his work promoting database research worldwide, the PAKDD Distinguished Contributions Award in 2014, and the DASFAA Outstanding Contributions Award in 2011 for his contributions to database and data mining research in the Asia-Pacific region. He is also the recipient of the prestigious Korea (presidential) Engineering Award in 2012.
Distinguished Professor Lee Elected to the NAS
Distinguished Professor Sang Yup Lee of the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering was elected as a foreign associate to the US National Academy of Sciences (NAS) on May 2. The National Academy of Sciences elected 84 new members and 21 foreign associates in recognition of their distinguished and continuing achievements in their original research. Election to the Academy is widely regarded as one of the highest honors that a scientist can receive. Professor Lee was also elected in 2010 as a member of the US National Academy of Engineering (NAE) for his leadership in microbial biotechnology and metabolic engineering, including the development of fermentation processes for biodegradable polymers and organic acids. Until 2016, there are only 12 people worldwide who are foreign associates of both NAS and NAE. He is the first Korean elected to both prestigious academies, the NAS and the NAE in the US. Professor Lee is currently the dean of KAIST Institutes, the world leading institute for multi-and interdisciplinary research. He is also serving as co-chair of the Global Council on Biotechnology and member of the Global Future Council on the Fourth Industrial Revolution, the World Economic Forum.
Professor Lee Co-chairs the Global Future Councils on Biotechnology of the WEF
The World Economic Forum (WEF) established a new global network of the world’s leading experts, “The Annual Meeting of the Global Future Councils,” to explore innovative solutions for the most pressing global challenges. The Councils’ first meeting took place on November 13-14, 2016, in Dubai, the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Some 25 nations joined as member states. The Councils have 35 committees. Over 700 global leaders in business, government, civil society and academia gathered at the inaugural meeting to “develop ideas and strategies to prepare the world for the Fourth Industrial Revolution, with topics including smart cities, robotics, and the future of mobility,” according to a statement issued by the WEF. Distinguished Professor Sang Yup Lee of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at KAIST was appointed to co-chair one of the Councils' committees, The Annual Meeting of the Global Future Councils on Biotechnology, for two years. The other chairperson is Dr. Feng Zhang, a professor of Biomedical Engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), who played a critical role in the development of optogenetics and CRISPR technologies. The Biotechnology Committee consists of 24 globally recognized professionals in life sciences, law, ethics and policy including Thomas Connelly, the executive director of the American Chemical Society, Tina Fano, the executive vice president of Novozymes, and Mostafa Ronaghi, the chief technology officer of Illumina. Professor Lee also serves as a committee member of The Annual Meeting of the Global Future Councils on the Fourth Industrial Revolution. “Life sciences and engineering will receive more attention as a key element of the Fourth Industrial Revolution that the global society as a whole has been experiencing now. Together with thought leaders gathered worldwide, I will join the international community’s concerted efforts to address issues of importance that impact greatly on the future of humanity,” Professor Lee said. In addition, Professor Lee received the James E. Bailey Award 2016 from The Society for Biological Engineering on November 15, 2016. He is the first Asian researcher to be recognized for his contributions to the field of biotechnology.
Top 10 Emerging Technologies by World Economic Forum
The World Economic Forum’s Meta-Council on Emerging Technologies announced its annual list of breakthrough technologies, the “Top 10 Emerging Technologies of 2016,” on June 23, 2016. The Meta-Council chose the top ten technologies based on the technologies’ potential to improve lives, transform industries, and safeguard the planet. The research field of systems metabolic engineering, founded by Distinguished Professor Sang Yup Lee of the Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering Department at KAIST, was also citied. Systems metabolic engineering, which combines elements of synthetic biology, systems biology, and evolutionary engineering, offers a sustainable process for the production of useful chemicals in an environmentally friendly way from plants such as inedible biomass, reducing the need of using fossil fuels. Details about the list follow below: https://www.weforum.org/press/2016/06/battery-powered-villages-sociable-robots-rank-among-top-10-emerging-technologies-of-2016 The picture below shows the “systems metabolic engineering of E. coli for the production of PLGA." PLGA is poly(lactate-co-glycolate), which is widely used for biomedical applications, and has been made by chemical synthesis. Now it is possible to produce PLGA eco-friendly by one-step fermentation of a gut bacterium which is developed through systems metabolic engineering.
KAIST to Participate in Summer Davos Forum 2016 in China
A group of KAIST researchers will share their insights on the future and challenges of the current technological innovations impacting all aspects of society, while showcasing their research excellence in artificial intelligence and robotics. Scientific and technological breakthroughs are more important than ever as key agents to drive social, economic, and political changes and advancements in today’s world. The World Economic Forum (WEF), an international organization that provides one of the broadest engagement platforms to address issues of major concern to the global community, will discuss the effects of these breakthroughs at its 10th Annual Meeting of the New Champions, a.k.a., the Summer Davos Forum, in Tianjin, China, June 26-28, 2016. Three professors from the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) will join the Annual Meeting and offer their expertise in the fields of biotechnology, artificial intelligence, and robotics to explore the conference theme, “The Fourth Industrial Revolution and Its Transformational Impact.” The Fourth Industrial Revolution, a term coined by WEF founder, Klaus Schwab, is characterized by a range of new technologies that fuse the physical, digital, and biological worlds, such as the Internet of Things, cloud computing, and automation. Distinguished Professor Sang Yup Lee of the Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering Department will speak at the Experts Reception to be held on June 25, 2016 on the topic of “The Summer Davos Forum and Science and Technology in Asia.” On June 27, 2016, he will participate in two separate discussion sessions. In the first session entitled “What If Drugs Are Printed from the Internet?,” Professor Lee will discuss the impacts of advancements in biotechnology and 3D printing technology on the future of medicine with Nita A. Farahany, a Duke University professor. Clare Matterson, the Director of Strategy at Wellcome Trust in the United Kingdom, will serve as the moderator. The discussants will note recent developments made in the way patients receive their medicine, for example, downloading drugs directly from the internet and the production of yeast strains to make opioids for pain treatment through systems metabolic engineering. They will also suggest how these emerging technologies will transform the landscape of the pharmaceutical industry in the years to come. In the second session, “Lessons for Life,” Professor Lee will talk about how to nurture life-long learning and creativity to support personal and professional growth necessary in an era of the new industrial revolution. During the Annual Meeting, Professors Jong-Hwan Kim of the Electrical Engineering School and David Hyunchul Shim of the Aerospace Department will host, together with researchers from Carnegie Mellon University and AnthroTronix, an engineering research and development company, a technological exhibition on robotics. Professor Kim, the founder of the internally renowned Robot World Cup, will showcase his humanoid soccer-playing micro-robots and display their various cutting-edge technologies such as imaging processing, artificial intelligence, walking, and balancing. Professor Shim will present a human-like robotic piloting system, PIBOT, which autonomously operates a simulated flight program by employing control sticks and guiding an airplane from takeoff to landing. In addition, the two professors will join Professor Lee, who is also a moderator, to host a KAIST-led session on June 26, 2016, entitled “Science in Depth: From Deep Learning to Autonomous Machines.” Professors Kim and Shim will explore new opportunities and challenges in their fields from machine learning to autonomous robotics, including unmanned vehicles and drones. Since 2011, KAIST has participated in the World Economic Forum’s two flagship conferences, the January and June Davos Forums, to introduce outstanding talents, share their latest research achievements, and interact with global leaders. KAIST President Steve Kang said, “It is important for KAIST to be involved in global forums that identify issues critical to humanity and seek answers to solve them, and where our skills and knowledge in science and technology can play a meaningful role. The Annual Meeting in China will become another venue to accomplish this.”
Nature Biotechnology Nominates Sang Yup Lee of KAIST for Top 20 Translational Researchers of 2014
Nature Biotechnology, recognized as the most prestigious journal in the field of biotechnology, has released today its list of the Top 20 Translational Researchers of 2014. Distinguished Professor Sang Yup Lee of the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at KAIST (Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology) ranked seventh in the list. He is the only Asian researcher listed. The journal, in partnership with IP Checkups, a patent analytics firm, presents an annual ranking of researchers based on their paper and patent output. The list includes, among others, each researcher’s most-cited patent in the past five years and their H index, a measurement to evaluate the impact of a researcher’s published work utilizing citation analysis. (More details can be found at http://www.nature.com/bioent/2015/150801/full/bioe.2015.9.html.) American institutions made up the majority of the list, with 18 universities and research institutes, and the remainder was filled by KAIST in Korea and the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO) in Australia. Globally known as a leading researcher in systems metabolic engineering, Professor Lee has published more than 500 journal papers and 580 patents. He has received many awards, including the Citation Classic Award, Elmer Gaden Award, Merck Metabolic Engineering Award, ACS Marvin Johnson Award, SIMB Charles Thom Award, POSCO TJ Park Prize, Amgen Biochemical Engineering Award, and the Ho Am Prize in Engineering.
Professor Sang-Yup Lee Receives the Order of Service Merit Red Stripes from the Korean Government
The government of the Republic of Korea named Professor Sang-Yup Lee of the Department of Chemical and Bio-molecular Engineering at KAIST as the fiftieth recipient of the Order of Service Merit Red Stripes on May 19, 2015. This medal is awarded to government employees, officials, and teachers in recognition of their contributions to public services including education. Professor Lee is regarded as a leading scientist in the field of metabolic engineering, genomics, proteomics, metabolomics, and bioinformatics on microorganism producing various primary and secondary metabolites. He contributed significantly to the advancement of bio-based engineering research in Korea. In addition, his research in microorganism metabolic engineering propelled him to the front of his field, making him the world’s founder of systems metabolic engineering, inventing numerous technologies in strain development. Professor Lee has received many patent rights in bioprocess engineering. While at KAIST, he applied for 585 patents and registered 227 patents. In particular, he has applied for 135 patents and registered 99 patents in the past five years, successfully turning research results into commercial applications. Professor Lee said, “I’m glad to contribute to the development of Korean science and technology as a researcher and teacher. I would like to share this honor with my students, master’s and doctoral students in particular, because without their support, it wouldn’t have been possible to pull off the highest level of research results recognized by this medal.”
System Approach Using Metabolite Structural Similarity Toward TOM Suggested
A Korean research team at KAIST suggests that a system approach using metabolite structural similarity helps to elucidate the mechanisms of action of traditional oriental medicine. Traditional oriental medicine (TOM) has been practiced in Asian countries for centuries, and is gaining increasing popularity around the world. Despite its efficacy in various symptoms, TOM has been practiced without precise knowledge of its mechanisms of action. Use of TOM largely comes from empirical knowledge practiced over a long period of time. The fact that some of the compounds found in TOM have led to successful modern drugs such as artemisinin for malaria and taxol (Paclitaxel) for cancer has spurred modernization of TOM. A research team led by Sang-Yup Lee at KAIST has focused on structural similarities between compounds in TOM and human metabolites to help explain TOM’s mechanisms of action. This systems approach using structural similarities assumes that compounds which are structurally similar to metabolites could affect relevant metabolic pathways and reactions by biosynthesizing structurally similar metabolites. Structural similarity analysis has helped to identify mechanisms of action of TOM. This is described in a recent study entitled “A systems approach to traditional oriental medicine,” published online in Nature Biotechnology on March 6, 2015. In this study, the research team conducted structural comparisons of all the structurally known compounds in TOM and human metabolites on a large-scale. As a control, structures of all available approved drugs were also compared against human metabolites. This structural analysis provides two important results. First, the identification of metabolites structurally similar to TOM compounds helped to narrow down the candidate target pathways and reactions for the effects from TOM compounds. Second, it suggested that a greater fraction of all the structurally known TOM compounds appeared to be more similar to human metabolites than the approved drugs. This second finding indicates that TOM has a great potential to interact with diverse metabolic pathways with strong efficacy. This finding, in fact, shows that TOM compounds might be advantageous for the multitargeting required to cure complex diseases. “Once we have narrowed down candidate target pathways and reactions using this structural similarity approach, additional in silico tools will be necessary to characterize the mechanisms of action of many TOM compounds at a molecular level,” said Hyun Uk Kim, a research professor at KAIST. TOM’s multicomponent, multitarget approach wherein multiple components show synergistic effects to treat symptoms is highly distinctive. The researchers investigated previously observed effects recorded since 2000 of a set of TOM compounds with known mechanisms of action. TOM compounds’ synergistic combinations largely consist of a major compound providing the intended efficacy to the target site and supporting compounds which maximize the efficacy of the major compound. In fact, such combination designs appear to mirror the Kun-Shin-Choa-Sa design principle of TOM. That principle, Kun-Shin-Choa-Sa (君臣佐使 or Jun-Chen-Zuo-Shi in Chinese) literally means “king-minister-assistant-ambassador.” In ancient East Asian medicine, treating human diseases and taking good care of the human body are analogous to the politics of governing a nation. Just as good governance requires that a king be supported by ministers, assistants and/or ambassadors, treating diseases or good care of the body required the combined use of herbal medicines designed based on the concept of Kun-Shin-Choa-Sa. Here, the Kun (king or the major component) indicates the major medicine (or herb) conveying the major drug efficacy, and is supported by three different types of medicines: the Shin (minister or the complementary component) for enhancing and/or complementing the efficacy of the Kun, Choa (assistant or the neutralizing component) for reducing any side effects caused by the Kun and reducing the minor symptoms accompanying major symptom, and Sa (ambassador or the delivery/retaining component) which facilitated the delivery of the Kun to the target site, and retaining the Kun for prolonged availability in the cells. The synergistic combinations of TOM compounds reported in the literature showed four different types of synergisms: complementary action (similar to Kun-Shin), neutralizing action (similar to Kun-Choa), facilitating action or pharmacokinetic potentiation (both similar to Kun-Choa or Kun-Sa). Additional structural analyses for these compounds with synergism show that they appeared to affect metabolism of amino acids, co-factors and vitamins as major targets. Professor Sang Yup Lee remarks, “This study lays a foundation for the integration of traditional oriental medicine with modern drug discovery and development. The systems approach taken in this analysis will be used to elucidate mechanisms of action of unknown TOM compounds which will then be subjected to rigorous validation through clinical and in silico experiments.” Sources: Kim, H.U. et al. “A systems approach to traditional oriental medicine.” Nature Biotechnology. 33: 264-268 (2015). This work was supported by the Bio-Synergy Research Project (2012M3A9C4048759) of the Ministry of Science, ICT and Future Planning through the National Research Foundation. This work was also supported by the Novo Nordisk Foundation. The picture below presents the structural similarity analysis of comparing compounds in traditional oriental medicine and those in all available approved drugs against the structures of human metabolites.
Professor Sang Yup Lee Appointed Founding Board Member of Cell Systems
Distinguished Professor Sang Yup Lee of the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at KAIST has been appointed a member of the founding editorial board of the newly established journal Cell Systems. Cell Systems will be a sister journal of Cell, one of the three most prestigious scientific journals along with Nature and Science, that publishes a wide range of papers on biological engineering. The first issue of Cell Systems will be published this July. Cell Systems plans to publish innovative discoveries, reviews of various research instruments, and research findings on integrated and quantified systems in the field of biology. Professor Lee is a pioneer in metabolic engineering of microorganism with a focus on biopolymers and metabolites production. He is the editor-in-chief of Biotechnology Journal and serves on the editorial board of numerous international journals. He is also a member of the Global Agenda Council of the World Economic Forum and the Presidential Advisory Committee on Science and Technology in Korea. Professor Lee said, “Cell Systems will present research findings that discuss whole biological systems methodically.” He continued, “I hope many research findings of Korean scholars will be published in Cell Systems, which will become a representative journal of systems biology and systems biological engineering.”
Distinguished Professor Sang Yup Lee Accepts an Honorary Professorship at Beijing University of Chemical Technology
Distinguished Professor Sang Yup Lee of the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at KAIST has been appointed an honorary professor at Beijing University of Chemical Technology (BUCT). Founded in 1958, BUCT is one of the outstanding universities in mainland China, especially in chemistry studies. In addition to the Chinese Academy of Sciences (2012), Shanghai Jiao Tong University (2013), Wuhan University (2014), and Hebei University of Technology (2014), this is the fifth honorary professorship Professor Lee has received from higher education institutions in China. Professor Lee was recognized for his pioneering research in systems metabolic engineering of microorganisms necessary for the development of green chemical industries. He succeeded in producing succinic acid through bacterial fermentation and engineering plastic raw materials in the most effective and economical method for the first time in the world. Professor Lee also developed polylactic acid, a bio-based polymer that allows plastics to be produced through natural and renewable resources, as well as the microbial production of alkanes, an alternative to gasoline that can be produced from fatty acids. Professor Lee has been actively working as a member of a group of global leaders supported by the World Economic Forum (WEF), serving as the Chairman of the Future of Chemicals, Advanced Materials & Biotechnology, Global Agenda Councils, WEF.
Wuhan University, China, Appoints Distinguished Professor Sang Yup Lee as Honorary Professor
Sang Yup Lee, Distinguished Professor of the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at KAIST, has been appointed an honorary professor at Wuhan University in Hubei Province, China. This is the third time that Professor Lee has received an honorary professorship from Chinese academic institutions. The Chinese Academy of Sciences appointed him an honorary professor in 2012, and Shanghai Jia Tong University asked him to serve as an advisory professor in 2013, respectively. Professor Lee was recognized for his pioneering research in systems metabolic engineering of microorganisms necessary for the development of green chemical industries. He succeeded in producing succinic acid through bacterial fermentation and engineering plastic raw materials in the most effective and economical method for the first time in the world. Professor Lee also developed polylactic acid, a bio-based polymer that allows plastics to be produced through natural and renewable resources, as well as the microbial production of alkanes, an alternative to gasoline that can be produced from fatty acids. Professor Lee has been actively working as a member of a group of global leaders supported by the World Economic Forum (WEF), serving the Chairman of the Future of Chemicals, Advanced Materials & Biotechnology, Global Agenda Councils, WEF. Wuhan University is a comprehensive and key national university selected by the Chinese government as a major recipient of state funding for research. It is also known as one of the most beautiful campuses in China.
Distinguished Professor Sang Yup Lee Gives Special Lecture at Tianjin University, China
Distinguished Professor Sang Yup Lee from the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at KAIST gave a special lecture at Tianjin University, China, on September 12, 2014. The university has invited prestigious scholars and scientists including Nobel Prize laureates from all around the world to their program called the "BeiYang Lecture Series." Professor Lee said: "The lecture series has invited many eminent global leaders such as Dr. Steven Chu, who received the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1997 and also served the 12th United States Secretary of Energy. It is a great honor to participate in the program as a speaker. The university told me that in recognition of my research in the development of sustainable biochemical industry through systems metabolic engineering, I was invited to speak.” Professor Lee presented his speech entitled “Production of Chemical Materials through Microorganism Metabolic Systems Engineering” and took questions from the audience. Professor Lee developed the world’s most efficient microorganism and bioprocess such as succinate, butanol, and engineering plastic raw materials. In recent years, he has succeeded in producing a small quantity of gasoline through converting in-vivo generated fatty acids.
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