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COVID-Update: KAIST on High Alert amid Spring Resurgence
COVID-19 Task Force responds 24-7 and ISSS provides returning international students with a comfort package during 14-day mandatory quarantine In response to the upsurge of COVID-19 cases in the proximate college districts in Daejeon, KAIST announced the enforcement of stricter health and safety regulations. Korean health authorities expected another surge of COVID-19 cases this spring as Korea’s daily new COVID-19 cases have rebounded to the high 600s and over 700 in April, which is the most in over three months. New guidelines issued on April 5 banned faculty, staff, and students from engaging in off-campus activities and utilizing external public facilities. Such facilities include, but are not limited to, bars, cafes, clubs, gyms, karaoke rooms, PC rooms, restaurants, and other crowded indoor spaces. All class and research activities, work meetings, and school events were moved exclusively online, and working from home and flexible working hours were highly encouraged in order to minimize face-to-face interactions on campus. In particular, having meals outside of KAIST cafeterias in groups of two or more was prohibited, while food delivery and take-outs were allowed. Executive Vice President and Provost Seung Seob Lee said in a letter to the KAIST community on April 5 that “the school considers the risk of the current situation to be very high, likely the highest since the outbreak of COVID-19.” Provost Lee then called for more team efforts to contain the current phase of the pandemic and asked everyone to do their part. The school installed new temperature scanners equipped with hand sanitizer dispensers in front of the dormitory entrances to further control the spread of the disease on campus, following confirmed COVID-19 cases among dormitory residents. As the COVID-19 pandemic continues with no clear end in sight, the Task Force for the Prevention of COVID-19 and the International Scholar and Student Services (ISSS) Team at KAIST are working around the clock to reduce the risk of infection spread not only within the campus, but also coming from outside the campus. Under strict health and safety guidelines, KAIST has allowed international students to come back to campus. Currently about 600 international students, mostly graduate students reside on campus. All returning students should complete the mandatory 14-day self-quarantine required by the Korean government at their own expense. The KAIST COVID-19 Task Force is in charge of enacting on-campus health and safety guidelines, responding to reports and inquiries from the KAIST community 24-7, and controlling outsider access, among other responsibilities. The ISSS Team requires returning international students to fill out an entry authorization form and receive approval from the KAIST COVID-19 Task Force prior to returning to campus from their home countries. Once students arrive at their designated quarantine facility, the KAIST ISSS Team sends care packages, which includes some toiletries, instant food, a multipot, a thermometer, and other daily necessities. During the quarantine period, returning students are also advised to follow the directions given by government officials and to coordinate with the ISSS Team. The team also provides useful Korean phrases for international students to help them with communication. The self-quarantine period ends at 12 p.m. 14 days after arrival. Within two days of finishing the 14 days of self-isolation, these students are required to undergo a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test for COVID-19 at the nearest health center. After confirmed negative, they are allowed to move into on-campus accommodations. KAIST will maintain the current method of remote education and distancing methods until further notice. (END)
Centrifugal Multispun Nanofibers Put a New Spin on COVID-19 Masks
KAIST researchers have developed a novel nanofiber production technique called ‘centrifugal multispinning’ that will open the door for the safe and cost-effective mass production of high-performance polymer nanofibers. This new technique, which has shown up to a 300 times higher nanofiber production rate per hour than that of the conventional electrospinning method, has many potential applications including the development of face mask filters for coronavirus protection. Nanofibers make good face mask filters because their mechanical interactions with aerosol particles give them a greater ability to capture more than 90% of harmful particles such as fine dust and virus-containing droplets. The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has further accelerated the growing demand in recent years for a better kind of face mask. A polymer nanofiber-based mask filter that can more effectively block harmful particles has also been in higher demand as the pandemic continues. ‘Electrospinning’ has been a common process used to prepare fine and uniform polymer nanofibers, but in terms of safety, cost-effectiveness, and mass production, it has several drawbacks. The electrospinning method requires a high-voltage electric field and electrically conductive target, and this hinders the safe and cost-effective mass production of polymer nanofibers. In response to this shortcoming, ‘centrifugal spinning’ that utilizes centrifugal force instead of high voltage to produce polymer nanofibers has been suggested as a safer and more cost-effective alternative to the electrospinning. Easy scalability is another advantage, as this technology only requires a rotating spinneret and a collector. However, since the existing centrifugal force-based spinning technology employs only a single rotating spinneret, productivity is limited and not much higher than that of some advanced electrospinning technologies such as ‘multi-nozzle electrospinning’ and ‘nozzleless electrospinning.’ This problem persists even when the size of the spinneret is increased. Inspired by these limitations, a research team led by Professor Do Hyun Kim from the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at KAIST developed a centrifugal multispinning spinneret with mass-producibility, by sectioning a rotating spinneret into three sub-disks. This study was published as a front cover article of ACS Macro Letters, Volume 10, Issue 3 in March 2021. Using this new centrifugal multispinning spinneret with three sub-disks, the lead author of the paper PhD candidate Byeong Eun Kwak and his fellow researchers Hyo Jeong Yoo and Eungjun Lee demonstrated the gram-scale production of various polymer nanofibers with a maximum production rate of up to 25 grams per hour, which is approximately 300 times higher than that of the conventional electrospinning system. The production rate of up to 25 grams of polymer nanofibers per hour corresponds to the production rate of about 30 face mask filters per day in a lab-scale manufacturing system. By integrating the mass-produced polymer nanofibers into the form of a mask filter, the researchers were able to fabricate face masks that have comparable filtration performance with the KF80 and KF94 face masks that are currently available in the Korean market. The KF80 and KF94 masks have been approved by the Ministry of Food and Drug Safety of Korea to filter out at least 80% and 94% of harmful particles respectively. “When our system is scaled up from the lab scale to an industrial scale, the large-scale production of centrifugal multispun polymer nanofibers will be made possible, and the cost of polymer nanofiber-based face mask filters will also be lowered dramatically,” Kwak explained. This work was supported by the KAIST-funded Global Singularity Research Program for 2020. Publication: Byeong Eun Kwak, Hyo Jeong Yoo, Eungjun Lee, and Do Hyun Kim. (2021) Large-Scale Centrifugal Multispinning Production of Polymer Micro- and Nanofibers for Mask Filter Application with a Potential of Cospinning Mixed Multicomponent Fibers. ACS Macro Letters, Volume No. 10, Issue No. 3, pp. 382-388. Available online at https://doi.org/10.1021/acsmacrolett.0c00829 Profile: Do Hyun Kim, Sc.D. Professor email@example.com http://procal.kaist.ac.kr/ Process Analysis Laboratory Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering https:/kaist.ac.kr/en/ Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST)Daejeon 34141, Korea (END)
ACS Nano Special Edition Highlights Innovations at KAIST
- The collective intelligence and technological innovation of KAIST was highlighted with case studies including the Post-COVID-19 New Deal R&D Initiative Project. - KAIST’s innovative academic achievements and R&D efforts for addressing the world’s greatest challenges such as the COVID-19 pandemic were featured in ACS Nano as part of its special virtual issue commemorating the 50th anniversary of KAIST. The issue consisted of 14 review articles contributed by KAIST faculty from five departments, including two from Professor Il-Doo Kim from the Department of Materials Science and Engineering, who serves as an associate editor of the ACS Nano. ACS Nano, the leading international journal in nanoscience and nanotechnology, published a special virtual issue last month, titled ‘Celebrating 50 Years of KAIST: Collective Intelligence and Innovation for Confronting Contemporary Issues.’ This special virtual issue introduced KAIST’s vision of becoming a ‘global value-creative leading university’ and its progress toward this vision over the last 50 years. The issue explained how KAIST has served as the main hub for advanced scientific research and technological innovation in South Korea since its establishment in 1971, and how its faculty and over 69,000 graduates played a key role in propelling the nation’s rapid industrialization and economic development. The issue also emphasized the need for KAIST to enhance global cooperation and the exchange of ideas in the years to come, especially during the post-COVID era intertwined with the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR). In this regard, the issue cited the first ‘KAIST Emerging Materials e-Symposium (EMS)’, which was held online for five days in September of last year with a global audience of over 10,000 participating live via Zoom and YouTube, as a successful example of what academic collaboration could look like in the post-COVID and 4IR eras. In addition, the “Science & Technology New Deal Project for COVID-19 Response,” a project conducted by KAIST with support from the Ministry of Science and ICT (MSIT) of South Korea, was also introduced as another excellent case of KAIST’s collective intelligence and technological innovation. The issue highlighted some key achievements from this project for overcoming the pandemic-driven crisis, such as: reusable anti-virus filters, negative-pressure ambulances for integrated patient transport and hospitalization, and movable and expandable negative-pressure ward modules. “We hold our expectations high for the outstanding achievements and progress KAIST will have made by its centennial,” said Professor Kim on the background of curating the 14 review articles contributed by KAIST faculty from the fields of Materials Science and Engineering (MSE), Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering (CBE), Nuclear and Quantum Engineering (NQE), Electrical Engineering (EE), and Chemistry (Chem). Review articles discussing emerging materials and their properties covered photonic carbon dots (Professor Chan Beum Park, MSE), single-atom and ensemble catalysts (Professor Hyunjoo Lee, CBE), and metal/metal oxide electrocatalysts (Professor Sung-Yoon Chung, MSE). Review articles discussing materials processing covered 2D layered materials synthesis based on interlayer engineering (Professor Kibum Kang, MSE), eco-friendly methods for solar cell production (Professor Bumjoon J. Kim, CBE), an ex-solution process for the synthesis of highly stable catalysts (Professor WooChul Jung, MSE), and 3D light-patterning synthesis of ordered nanostructures (Professor Seokwoo Jeon, MSE, and Professor Dongchan Jang, NQE). Review articles discussing advanced analysis techniques covered operando materials analyses (Professor Jeong Yeong Park, Chem), graphene liquid cell transmission electron microscopy (Professor Jong Min Yuk, MSE), and multiscale modeling and visualization of materials systems (Professor Seungbum Hong, MSE). Review articles discussing practical state-of-the-art devices covered chemiresistive hydrogen sensors (Professor Il-Doo Kim, MSE), patient-friendly diagnostics and implantable treatment devices (Professor Steve Park, MSE), triboelectric nanogenerators (Professor Yang-Kyu Choi, EE), and next-generation lithium-air batteries (Professor Hye Ryung Byon, Chem, and Professor Il-Doo Kim, MSE). In addition to Professor Il-Doo Kim, post-doctoral researcher Dr. Jaewan Ahn from the KAIST Applied Science Research Institute, Dean of the College of Engineering at KAIST Professor Choongsik Bae, and ACS Nano Editor-in-Chief Professor Paul S. Weiss from the University of California, Los Angeles also contributed to the publication of this ACS Nano special virtual issue. The issue can be viewed and downloaded from the ACS Nano website at https://doi.org/10.1021/acsnano.1c01101. Image credit: KAIST Image usage restrictions: News organizations may use or redistribute this image,with proper attribution, as part of news coverage of this paper only. Publication: Ahn, J., et al. (2021) Celebrating 50 Years of KAIST: Collective Intelligence and Innovation for Confronting Contemporary Issues. ACS Nano 15(3): 1895-1907. Available online at https://doi.org/10.1021/acsnano.1c01101 Profile: Il-Doo Kim, Ph.D Chair Professor firstname.lastname@example.org http://advnano.kaist.ac.kr Advanced Nanomaterials and Energy Lab. Department of Materials Science and Engineering Membrane Innovation Center for Anti-Virus and Air-Quality Control https://kaist.ac.kr/ Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) Daejeon, Republic of Korea (END)
KAIST Celebrates 50-Year Anniversary with 2,712 New Graduates
KAIST is proud to announce the graduation of 2,712 students, including 668 PhDs and 1,331 master’s degree recipients. The pandemic could not stop the university from recognizing each graduate's remarkable and original achievements. A pandemic-proof blended commencement ceremony was held on Friday, February 19, and livestreamed to the graduates and their loved ones. KAIST decided to take extra precautions to protect graduates and other attendees’ health and well-being. For the virtual ceremony, only 83 out of the 2,712 graduates were invited to attend the ceremony in person. Graduates were divided into four groups to attend at four different places in Daejeon and Seoul campuses and watch the ceremony via Zoom. No family members or friends of the graduates were allowed to participate at the campus, but happily cheered the graduates via YouTube. This year’s valedictorian, Hyun-Young Park from the School of Electrical Engineering, received the Award of the Minister of Science and Technology. Salutorian Yeh-Lin Cho from the Department of Materials Science and Engineering received the Award of the KAIST Board of Trustees, while the recipient of the KAIST Presidential Award was Min-Jae Kim from the Department of Bio and Brain Engineering. The Award of the KAIST Development Foundation Chairman and the KAIST Alumni Association Presidential Award were conferred to Kyung-Tae Kim from the Department of Physics and Min-Woo Jung from the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, respectively. President Sung-Chul Shin, Chairman of the Board of Trustees Woo Sik Kim, and a very limited number of faculty members and administrative staff officiated the commencement ceremony from the KAIST Auditorium. President Shin in his commencement speech applauded the graduates’ hard work and dedication. He also delivered a very special congratulatory message to the bachelor’s degree awardees. “This year’s commencement is especially meaningful for me. I was appointed as the 16th president of KAIST on February 23, 2017, and met you for the first time on February 28 at the matriculation ceremony. We promised each other—as freshmen and as the first alumnus president—to do our best for the next four years,” President Shin recalled. He added, “I have done my best to keep my promise, and now my term will end on February 22. Of course, the past four years were even more precious because you were all a part of it.” In conclusion, President Shin said, “I am proud of you for keeping your end of the promise. Thank you for becoming who you are today. I have high hopes for the bright future that you will be shaping for KAIST and our society.” The livestream ceremony is archived for viewing on KAIST's Official YouTube Channel. (END)
COVID-Update: Spring 2021 Classes Continue Online
KAIST announced that its spring 2021 classes will also be online as the pandemic continues into the new year. The spring semester will begin on March 1. Executive Vice President and Provost Kwang Hyung Lee said in a letter to the KAIST community on January 15 that nearly all classes in the 2021 spring semester will be held online. However, a very limited number of lab classes and other classes that require on-site practice and demonstrations will be offered either in-person or in a blended format. In addition, graduate courses above the 600 level and graduate courses in the College of Business at the Seoul campus will be allowed to conduct in-person or blended classes under very strict social distancing guidelines. Provost Lee said that the university will be revert back to in-person classes as soon as the government eases the social distancing guidelines. As of February 4, the nation is under Level 2.5 in Seoul and its metropolitan areas, while other regions are at Level 2. Level 2.5 prohibits the gathering of 10 or more people, and Levels 1 and 2 require gatherings to be fewer than 50 people. At Level 3, all classes will be held online. Test management is another challenge. Regarding mid-term and final exams, the university plans to give more flexibility to professors. Professors may give additional assignments instead of a mid-term exam. Open-book exams and real-time exams through Zoom will be another option. However, some classes that require in-person tests in some graduate courses will be allowed as long as they follow very strict social distancing guidelines.
Top University Leaders Urge Innovation for the Post-COVID Era at the KAIST Summit
- Presidents of KAIST, MIT, Tokyo Tech, and Northwestern to define new roles and responsibilities of universities for the post-COVID and 4IR eras during an online summit in celebration of KAIST’s 50th anniversary. - Universities are facing ever-mounting pressure to address impacts brought on by COVID-19 and the emerging technologies of the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR). Presidents from MIT, Tokyo Tech, and Northwestern University will join the KAIST Summit to explore new directions for higher education during the post-COVID era intertwined with the 4IR. They agree that addressing these dual challenges requires pushing for innovations to rebuild the competitive edges of universities. This summit is one of KAIST’s series of events to envision the future of KAIST and higher education in celebration of its 50th anniversary. The online summit will be live streamed on KAIST’s official YouTube channel (https://www.youtube.com/c/KAISTofficial) on February 3, 2021, from 10 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. Korean time (February 2, 7:00-9:00 p.m. CST and 8:00-10:00 p.m. EST, respectively). The KAIST Summit titled “The Roles and Responsibilities of Universities in a Global Crisis” will discuss a range of issues affecting many aspects of universities in the coming decades. “This summit will allow us to measure the level of risk that universities face today and will face in the future. Although there will be varying views on what a post-COVID world might look like, one thing for sure is that universities cannot go back to the way they used to exist and operate. Moreover, the 4IR continues to infiltrate and shake up our daily lives. Changes are inevitable, and universities must pursue bold and innovative responses to remain sustainable and relevant to society,” said KAIST President Sung-Chul Shin on the background of hosting the event. The keynote speakers include KAIST President Shin, MIT President L. Rafael Reif, Tokyo Tech President Kazuya Masu, and Northwestern University President Morton Schapiro. After the keynote speech session, the speakers will take part in a panel discussion on three topics: “The Digital Divide,” “Emerging Challenges in AI,” and “Social Entrepreneurship and University-Industry Collaboration.” A Q&A session with an online audience consisting of KAIST faculty, staff, and students as well as high school students across the nation will follow shortly afterwards. President Reif of MIT will congratulate KAIST on its successful 50-year journey from meager beginnings to achieving its current status as one of the finest global universities in science and technology. Then he will give a talk titled “Universities as Engines of Change” to present how universities have played a critical role in advancing solutions to humanity’s most urgent problems. President Masu of Tokyo Tech will stress the importance of universities’ continuous dialogue with society as drivers of innovation. In his speech titled “Designing Our Future—Tokyo Tech DLab’s Approach,” he will introduce the activities of Tokyo Tech’s Laboratory for Design of Social Innovation in Global Networks (DLab) and explain how DLab collaborates for the future with members of society. President Schapiro of Northwestern University will speak about how universities might incorporate the lessons they learned in dealing with COVID-19 to improve their research, teaching, and public service in the post-pandemic era. He will also look into issues arising from changing labor market needs associated with the 4IR and the aftermath of COVID-19 in his talk titled “The University in the ‘New Normal.’” Finally, President Shin of KAIST will deliver a presentation on the “Visions & Innovations for the Next Dream of KAIST.” He will reflect on the remarkable track record from KAIST’s first 50 years and how it has contributed significantly to the rapid growth of Korea as a hi-tech powerhouse. Furthermore, he will elaborate on a new vision for the development of KAIST over the next 50 years and roll out a set of strategic innovation plans in the five areas of education, research, technology commercialization, globalization, and future strategy. In the panel discussion, the four presidents will dive into a more intense conversation on such topics as universities’ role in bridging the increasing digital divide through their research, education, and international cooperation; the socioeconomic implications and ethical challenges of the fast deployment of AI and robotics; 4IR disruptions that will transform higher education; ways to foster social innovation and youth entrepreneurship; and how to build university-industry cooperation. More information on KAIST’s 50th anniversary celebrations can be found on its special celebratory website at https://50.kaist.ac.kr/eng/. The official anniversary ceremony is scheduled for February 16, 2021, from 10 a.m. Korean time, and live-streaming will also be made available on KAIST’s official YouTube channel at https://www.youtube.com/c/KAISTofficial. (END)
KAIST Mobile Clinic Module to Fill Negative Pressure Ward Shortage
Efficient versatile ready-for-rapid building system of MCM will serve as both a triage unit and bridge center in emergency medical situations A team from KAIST has developed a low-cost and ready-for-rapid-production negative pressure room called a Mobile Clinic Module (MCM). The MCM is expandable, moveable, and easy to store through a combination of negative pressure frames, air tents, and multi-function panels. The MCM expects to quickly meet the high demand for negative pressure beds in the nation and eventually many other countries where the third wave of COVID-19 is raging. The module is now ready to be rolled out after a three-week test period at the Korea Cancer Center Hospital. Professor Tek-Jin Nam’s team swung into action, rapidly working together with researchers, engineers with expertise in mechanical design, and a team of clinical doctors to complete the MCM as one of KAIST’s New Deal R&D initiatives launched last July. Professor Nam cites ‘expandability’ as the key feature of the MCM. Eventually, it will serve as both a triage unit and bridge center in emergency medical situations. “The module is a very efficient and versatile unit building system. It takes approximately two hours to build the basic MCM unit, which comprises four negative pressure bed rooms, nurse’s station, locker room, and treatment room. We believe this will significantly contribute to relieving the drastic need for negative pressure beds and provide a place for monitoring patients with moderate symptoms,” said Professor Nam. “It will also be helpful for managing less-severe patients who need to be monitored daily in quarantined rooms or as bridge stations where on-site medical staff can provide treatment and daily monitoring before hospitalization. These wards can be efficiently deployed either inside or outside existing hospitals.” The research team specially designed the negative pressure frame to ensure safety level A for the negative pressure room, which is made of a multi-function panel wall and roofed with an air tent. The multi-function panels can hold medical appliances such as ventilators, oxygen and bio-signal monitors. Positive air pressure devices supply fresh air from outside the tent. An air pump and controller maintain air beam pressure, while filtering exhausted air. An internal air information monitoring system efficiently controls room air pressure and purifies the air. While a conventional negative pressure bed is reported to cost approximately 3.5 billion KRW (50 billion won for a ward), this module is estimated to cost 0.75 billion won each (10 billion won for a ward), cutting the costs by approximately 80%. The MCM is designed to be easily transported and relocated due to its volume, weight, and maintainability. This module requires only one-fourth of the volume of existing wards and takes up approximately 40% of their weight. The unit can be transported in a 40-foot container truck. “We believe this will significantly contribute to relieving the drastic need for negative pressure beds and provide a place for monitoring patients with moderate symptoms. We look forward to the MCM upgrading epidemic management resources around the world.” Professor Nam’s team is also developing antiviral solutions and devices such as protective gear, sterilizers, and test kits under the KAIST New Deal R&D Initiative that was launched to promptly and proactively respond to the epidemic. More than 45 faculty members and researchers at KAIST are collaborating with industry and clinical hospitals to develop the antiviral technology that will improve preventive measures, diagnoses, and treatment.
Electrosprayed Micro Droplets Help Kill Bacteria and Viruses
With COVID-19 raging around the globe, researchers are doubling down on methods for developing diverse antimicrobial technologies that could be effective in killing a virus, but harmless to humans and the environment. A recent study by a KAIST research team will be one of the responses to such efforts. Professor Seung Seob Lee and Dr. Ji-hun Jeong from the Department of Mechanical Engineering developed a harmless air sterilization prototype featuring electrosprayed water from a polymer micro-nozzle array. This study is one of the projects being supported by the KAIST New Deal R&D Initiative in response to COVID-19. Their study was reported in Polymer. The electrosprayed microdroplets encapsulate reactive oxygen species such as hydroxyl radicals, superoxides that are known to have an antimicrobial function. The encapsulation prolongs the life of reactive oxygen species, which enable the droplets to perform their antimicrobial function effectively. Prior research has already proven the antimicrobial and encapsulation effects of electrosprayed droplets. Despite its potential for antimicrobial applications, electrosprayed water generally operates under an electrical discharge condition, which can generate ozone. The inhalation of ozone is known to cause damage to the respiratory system of humans. Another technical barrier for electrospraying is the low flow rate problem. Since electrospraying exhibits the dependence of droplet size on the flow rate, there is a limit for the amount of water microdroplets a single nozzle can produce. With this in mind, the research team developed a dielectric polymer micro-nozzle array to perform the multiplexed electrospraying of water without electrical discharge. The polymer micro-nozzle array was fabricated using the MEMS (Micro Electro-Mechanical System) process. According to the research team, the nozzle can carry five to 19 micro-nozzles depending on the required application. The high aspect ratio of the micro-nozzle and an in-plane extractor were proposed to concentrate the electric field at the tip of the micro-nozzle, which prevents the electrical discharge caused by the high surface tension of water. A micro-pillar array with a hydrophobic coating around the micro-nozzle was also proposed to prevent the wetting of the micro-nozzle array. The polymer micro-nozzle array performed in steady cone jet mode without electrical discharge as confirmed by high-speed imaging and nanosecond pulsed imaging. The water microdroplets were measured to be in the range of six to 10 μm and displayed an antimicrobial effect on Escherichia coli and Staphylococcus aureus. Professor Lee said, “We believe that this research can be applied to air conditioning products in areas that require antimicrobial and humidifying functions.” Publication: Jeong, J. H., et al. (2020) Polymer micro-atomizer for water electrospray in the cone jet mode. Polymer. Vol. No. 194, 122405. Available online at https://doi.org/10.1016/j.polymer.2020.122405 Profile: Seung Seob Lee, Ph.D. email@example.com http://mmst.kaist.ac.kr/ Professor Department of Mechanical Engineering (ME) Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) https://www.kaist.ac.kr Daejeon 34141, Korea Profile: Ji-hun Jeong, Ph.D. firstname.lastname@example.org Postdoctoral researcher Department of Mechanical Engineering (ME) Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) https://www.kaist.ac.kr Daejeon 34141, Korea (END)
'Mini-Lungs' Reveal Early Stages of SARS-CoV-2 Infection
Researchers in Korea and the UK have successfully grown miniature models of critical lung structures called alveoli, and used them to study how the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 infects the lungs. To date, there have been more than 40 million cases of COVID-19 and almost 1.13 million deaths worldwide. The main target tissues of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, especially in patients that develop pneumonia, appear to be alveoli – tiny air sacs in the lungs that take up the oxygen we breathe and exchange it with carbon dioxide to exhale. To better understand how SARS-CoV-2 infects the lungs and causes disease, a team of Professor Young Seok Ju from the Graduate School of Medical Science and Engineering at KAIST in collaboration with the Wellcome-MRC Cambridge Stem Cell Institute at the University of Cambridge turned to organoids – ‘mini-organs’ grown in three dimensions to mimic the behaviour of tissue and organs. The team used tissue donated to tissue banks at the Royal Papworth Hospital NHS Foundation Trust and Addenbrooke’s Hospital, Cambridge University NHS Foundations Trust, UK, and Seoul National University Hospital to extract a type of lung cell known as human lung alveolar type 2 cells. By reprogramming these cells back to their earlier ‘stem cell’ stage, they were able to grow self-organizing alveolar-like 3D structures that mimic the behaviour of key lung tissue. “The research community now has a powerful new platform to study precisely how the virus infects the lungs, as well as explore possible treatments,” said Professor Ju, co-senior author of the research. Dr. Joo-Hyeon Lee, another co-senior author at the Wellcome-MRC Cambridge Stem Cell Institute, said: “We still know surprisingly little about how SARS-CoV-2 infects the lungs and causes disease. Our approach has allowed us to grow 3D models of key lung tissue – in a sense, ‘mini-lungs’ – in the lab and study what happens when they become infected.” The team infected the organoids with a strain of SARS-CoV-2 taken from a patient in Korea who was diagnosed with COVID-19 on January 26 after traveling to Wuhan, China. Using a combination of fluorescence imaging and single cell genetic analysis, they were able to study how the cells responded to the virus. When the 3D models were exposed to SARS-CoV-2, the virus began to replicate rapidly, reaching full cellular infection just six hours after infection. Replication enables the virus to spread throughout the body, infecting other cells and tissue. Around the same time, the cells began to produce interferons – proteins that act as warning signals to neighbouring cells, telling them to activate their antiviral defences. After 48 hours, the interferons triggered the innate immune response – its first line of defence – and the cells started fighting back against infection. Sixty hours after infection, a subset of alveolar cells began to disintegrate, leading to cell death and damage to the lung tissue. Although the researchers observed changes to the lung cells within three days of infection, clinical symptoms of COVID-19 rarely occur so quickly and can sometimes take more than ten days after exposure to appear. The team say there are several possible reasons for this. It may take several days from the virus first infiltrating the upper respiratory tract to it reaching the alveoli. It may also require a substantial proportion of alveolar cells to be infected or for further interactions with immune cells resulting in inflammation before a patient displays symptoms. “Based on our model we can tackle many unanswered key questions, such as understanding genetic susceptibility to SARS-CoV-2, assessing relative infectivity of viral mutants, and revealing the damage processes of the virus in human alveolar cells,” said Professor Ju. “Most importantly, it provides the opportunity to develop and screen potential therapeutic agents against SARS-CoV-2 infection.” “We hope to use our technique to grow these 3D models from cells of patients who are particularly vulnerable to infection, such as the elderly or people with diseased lungs, and find out what happens to their tissue,” added Dr. Lee. The research was a collaboration involving scientists from KAIST, the University of Cambridge, Korea National Institute of Health, Institute for Basic Science (IBS), Seoul National University Hospital and Genome Insight in Korea. - Profile -Professor Young Seok Ju -Laboratory of Cancer Genomics -https://julab.kaist.ac.kr -the Graduate School of Medical Science and Engineering -KAIST
KAIST Showcases Healthcare Technologies at K-Hospital Fair 2020
KAIST Pavilion showcased its innovative medical and healthcare technologies and their advanced applications at the K-Hospital Fair 2020. Five KAIST research groups who teamed up for the Post-COVID-19 New Deal R&D Initiative Project participated in the fair held in Seoul last week. The K-Hospital Fair is a yearly event organized by the Korean Hospital Association to present the latest research and practical innovations to help the medical industry better serve the patients. This year, 120 healthcare organizations participated in the fair and operated 320 booths. At the fair, a research group led by Professor Il-Doo Kim from the Department of Materials Science and Engineering demonstrated the manufacturing process of orthogonal nanofibers used to develop their ‘recyclable nano-fiber filtered face mask’ introduced in March of this year. This mask has garnered immense international attention for maintaining its sturdy frame and filtering function even after being washed more than 20 times. Professor Kim is now extending his facilities for the mass production of this mask at his start-up company. While awaiting final approval from the Ministry of Food and Drug Safety to bring his product into the market, Professor Kim is developing other mask variations such as eco-friendly biodegradable masks and transparent masks to aid the hearing-impaired who rely on lip reading to communicate. The team working under Professor Wonho Choe from the Department of Nuclear and Quantum Engineering presented two low-temperature plasma sterilizers for medical use, co-developed with Plasmapp, a start-up company founded by a KAIST alumnus. Their sterilizers are the first ones that can sterilize medical devices by diffusing hydrogen peroxide vapor into the pouch. They rapidly sterilize medical instruments and materials in just seven minutes without leaving toxic residue, while reducing sterilization time and costs by 90%. Professor Hyung-Soon Park and his researchers from the Department of Mechanical Engineering introduced a smart protective suit ventilation system that features high cooling capacity and a slimmed-down design. For comfortable use, the suit is equipped with a technique that monitors its inner temperature and humidity and automatically controls its inner circulation accordingly. The group also presented a new system that helps a person in a contaminated suit undress without coming into contact with the contaminated outer part of the suit. Professor Jong Chul Ye's group from the Department of Bio and Brain Engineering demonstrated AI software that can quickly diagnose an infectious disease based on chest X-ray imaging. The technique compares the differences in the severity of pneumonia in individual patients to distinguish whether their conditions fall under viral pneumonia including COVID-19, bacterial pneumonia, tuberculosis, other diseases, or normal conditions. The AI software visualizes the basis of its reasoning for each of the suspected diseases and provides them as information that can be utilized by medical personnel. Finally, researchers of Professor Ki-Hun Jeong’s team from the Department of Bio and Brain Engineering demonstrated their ultra-high-speed sub-miniature molecular diagnostic system for the on-site diagnosis of diseases. The existing Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) diagnostic usually takes from 30 minutes to an hour to provide results, but their new technique using an LED light source can present results within just three minutes and it is expected to be used actively for on-site diagnosis. Professor Choongsik Bae, the Director of the Post-COVID-19 New Deal R&D Initiative Project, said, “KAIST will build a healthy relationship amongst researchers, enterprises, and hospitals to contribute to the end of COVID-19 and build a new paradigm of Korean disease prevention and control.” KAIST launched the Post-COVID-19 New Deal R&D Initiative in July with the support of the Ministry of Science and ICT of Korea. This unit was created to overcome the pandemic crisis by using science and technology, and to contribute to economic development by creating a new antiviral drug industry. The unit is comprised of 464 KAIST members including professors, researchers, and students as well as 503 professionals from enterprises, hospitals, and research centers. (END)
Experts to Help Asia Navigate the Post-COVID-19 and 4IR Eras
Risk Quotient 2020, an international conference co-hosted by KAIST and the National University of Singapore (NUS), will bring together world-leading experts from academia and industry to help Asia navigate the post-COVID-19 and Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) eras. The online conference will be held on October 29 from 10 a.m. Korean time under the theme “COVID-19 Pandemic and A Brave New World”. It will be streamed live on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/c/KAISTofficial and https://www.youtube.com/user/NUScast. The Korea Policy Center for the Fourth Industrial Revolution (KPC4IR) at KAIST organized this conference in collaboration with the Lloyd's Register Foundation Institute for the Public Understanding of Risk (IPUR) at NUS. During the conference, global leaders will examine the socioeconomic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on areas including digital innovation, education, the workforce, and the economy. They will then highlight digital and 4IR technologies that could be utilized to effectively mitigate the risks and challenges associated with the pandemic, while harnessing the opportunities that these socioeconomic effects may present. Their discussions will mainly focus on the Asian region. In his opening remarks, KAIST President Sung-Chul Shin will express his appreciation for the Asian populations’ greater trust in and compliance with their governments, which have given the continent a leg up against the coronavirus. He will then emphasize that by working together through the exchange of ideas and global collaboration, we will be able to shape ‘a brave new world’ to better humanity. Welcoming remarks by Prof. Sang Yup Lee (Dean, KAIST Institutes) and Prof. Tze Yun Leong (Director, AI Technology at AI Singapore) will follow. For the keynote speech, Prof. Lan Xue (Dean, Schwarzman College, Tsinghua University) will share China’s response to COVID-19 and lessons for crisis management. Prof. Danny Quah (Dean, Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, NUS) will present possible ways to overcome these difficult times. Dr. Kak-Soo Shin (Senior Advisor, Shin & Kim LLC, Former Ambassador to the State of Israel and Japan, and Former First and Second Vice Minister of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Korea) will stress the importance of the international community’s solidarity to ensure peace, prosperity, and safety in this new era. Panel Session I will address the impact of COVID-19 on digital innovation. Dr. Carol Soon (Senior Research Fellow, Institute of Policy Studies, NUS) will present her interpretation of recent technological developments as both opportunities for our society as a whole and challenges for vulnerable groups such as low-income families. Dr. Christopher SungWook Chang (Managing Director, Kakao Mobility) will show how changes in mobility usage patterns can be captured by Kakao Mobility’s big data analysis. He will illustrate how the data can be used to interpret citizen’s behaviors and how risks can be transformed into opportunities by utilizing technology. Mr. Steve Ledzian’s (Vice President, Chief Technology Officer, FireEye) talk will discuss the dangers caused by threat actors and other cyber risk implications of COVID-19. Dr. June Sung Park (Chairman, Korea Software Technology Association (KOSTA)) will share how COVID-19 has accelerated digital transformations across all industries and why software education should be reformed to improve Korea’s competitiveness. Panel Session II will examine the impact on education and the workforce. Dr. Sang-Jin Ban (President, Korean Educational Development Institute (KEDI)) will explain Korea’s educational response to the pandemic and the concept of “blended learning” as a new paradigm, and present both positive and negative impacts of online education on students’ learning experiences. Prof. Reuben Ng (Professor, Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, NUS) will present on graduate underemployment, which seems to have worsened during COVID-19. Dr. Michael Fung’s presentation (Deputy Chief Executive (Industry), SkillsFuture SG) will introduce the promotion of lifelong learning in Singapore through a new national initiative known as the ‘SkillsFuture Movement’. This movement serves as an example of a national response to disruptions in the job market and the pace of skills obsolescence triggered by AI and COVID-19. Panel Session III will touch on technology leadership and Asia’s digital economy and society. Prof. Naubahar Sharif (Professor, Division of Social Science and Division of Public Policy, Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST)) will share his views on the potential of China in taking over global technological leadership based on its massive domestic market, its government support, and the globalization process. Prof. Yee Kuang Heng (Professor, Graduate School of Public Policy, University of Tokyo) will illustrate how different legal and political needs in China and Japan have shaped the ways technologies have been deployed in responding to COVID-19. Dr. Hayun Kang (Head, International Cooperation Research Division, Korea Information Society Development Institute (KISDI)) will explain Korea’s relative success containing the pandemic compared to other countries, and how policy leaders and institutions that embrace digital technologies in the pursuit of public welfare objectives can produce positive outcomes while minimizing the side effects. Prof. Kyung Ryul Park (Graduate School of Science and Technology Policy, KAIST) will be hosting the entire conference, whereas Prof. Alice Hae Yun Oh (Director, MARS Artificial Intelligence Research Center, KAIST), Prof. Wonjoon Kim (Dean, Graduate School of Innovation and Technology Management, College of Business, KAIST), Prof. Youngsun Kwon (Dean, KAIST Academy), and Prof. Taejun Lee (Korea Development Institute (KDI) School of Public Policy and Management) are to chair discussions with the keynote speakers and panelists. Closing remarks will be delivered by Prof. Chan Ghee Koh (Director, NUS IPUR), Prof. So Young Kim (Director, KAIST KPC4IR), and Prof. Joungho Kim (Director, KAIST Global Strategy Institute (GSI)). “This conference is expected to serve as a springboard to help Asian countries recover from global crises such as the COVID-19 pandemic through active cooperation and joint engagement among scholars, experts, and policymakers,” according to Director So Young Kim. (END)
Biomarker Predicts Who Will Have Severe COVID-19
- Airway cell analyses showing an activated immune axis could pinpoint the COVID-19 patients who will most benefit from targeted therapies.- KAIST researchers have identified key markers that could help pinpoint patients who are bound to get a severe reaction to COVID-19 infection. This would help doctors provide the right treatments at the right time, potentially saving lives. The findings were published in the journal Frontiers in Immunology on August 28. People’s immune systems react differently to infection with SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, ranging from mild to severe, life-threatening responses. To understand the differences in responses, Professor Heung Kyu Lee and PhD candidate Jang Hyun Park from the Graduate School of Medical Science and Engineering at KAIST analysed ribonucleic acid (RNA) sequencing data extracted from individual airway cells of healthy controls and of mildly and severely ill patients with COVID-19. The data was available in a public database previously published by a group of Chinese researchers. “Our analyses identified an association between immune cells called neutrophils and special cell receptors that bind to the steroid hormone glucocorticoid,” Professor Lee explained. “This finding could be used as a biomarker for predicting disease severity in patients and thus selecting a targeted therapy that can help treat them at an appropriate time,” he added. Severe illness in COVID-19 is associated with an exaggerated immune response that leads to excessive airway-damaging inflammation. This condition, known as acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), accounts for 70% of deaths in fatal COVID-19 infections. Scientists already know that this excessive inflammation involves heightened neutrophil recruitment to the airways, but the detailed mechanisms of this reaction are still unclear. Lee and Park’s analyses found that a group of immune cells called myeloid cells produced excess amounts of neutrophil-recruiting chemicals in severely ill patients, including a cytokine called tumour necrosis factor (TNF) and a chemokine called CXCL8. Further RNA analyses of neutrophils in severely ill patients showed they were less able to recruit very important T cells needed for attacking the virus. At the same time, the neutrophils produced too many extracellular molecules that normally trap pathogens, but damage airway cells when produced in excess. The researchers additionally found that the airway cells in severely ill patients were not expressing enough glucocorticoid receptors. This was correlated with increased CXCL8 expression and neutrophil recruitment. Glucocorticoids, like the well-known drug dexamethasone, are anti-inflammatory agents that could play a role in treating COVID-19. However, using them in early or mild forms of the infection could suppress the necessary immune reactions to combat the virus. But if airway damage has already happened in more severe cases, glucocorticoid treatment would be ineffective. Knowing who to give this treatment to and when is really important. COVID-19 patients showing reduced glucocorticoid receptor expression, increased CXCL8 expression, and excess neutrophil recruitment to the airways could benefit from treatment with glucocorticoids to prevent airway damage. Further research is needed, however, to confirm the relationship between glucocorticoids and neutrophil inflammation at the protein level. “Our study could serve as a springboard towards more accurate and reliable COVID-19 treatments,” Professor Lee said. This work was supported by the National Research Foundation of Korea, and Mobile Clinic Module Project funded by KAIST. Figure. Low glucocorticoid receptor (GR) expression led to excessive inflammation and lung damage by neutrophils through enhancing the expression of CXCL8 and other cytokines. Image credit: Professor Heung Kyu Lee, KAIST. Created with Biorender.com. Image usage restrictions: News organizations may use or redistribute these figures and image, with proper attribution, as part of news coverage of this paper only. Publication: Jang Hyun Park, and Heung Kyu Lee. (2020). Re-analysis of Single Cell Transcriptome Reveals That the NR3C1-CXCL8-Neutrophil Axis Determines the Severity of COVID-19. Frontiers in Immunology, Available online at https://doi.org/10.3389/fimmu.2020.02145 Profile: Heung Kyu Lee Associate Professor email@example.com https://www.heungkyulee.kaist.ac.kr/ Laboratory of Host Defenses Graduate School of Medical Science and Engineering (GSMSE) The Center for Epidemic Preparedness at KAIST Institute http://kaist.ac.kr Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) Daejeon, Republic of Korea Profile: Jang Hyun Park PhD Candidate firstname.lastname@example.org GSMSE, KAIST (END)
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