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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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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 email@example.com GSMSE, KAIST (END)
Virtual Commencement Ceremony Honors the Class of 2020
The KAIST community gathered online to celebrate the 2020 graduating class. The blended ceremony conferred their hard-earned degrees on August 28. The belated celebration, which was postponed from February 21 due to the COVID-19 outbreak, honored the 2846 graduates with live streaming on YouTube beginning at 2:00 pm. The graduates include 721 PhDs and 1399 master’s degree holders. The government raised its social distancing guidelines to level two out of three on August 23 as the second wave of the virus hit the nation. Level two guidelines prohibit the gathering of more than 50 persons indoors or 100 persons outdoors. For the virtual ceremony, the Office of Student Affairs and Policy announced a list of 67 graduates who signed up to participate in the graduation ceremony. Graduates were divided into three groups to attend at three different places and watch the ceremony via Zoom. No family and friends of the graduates were allowed to participate at the campus. This year’s valedictorian, Kon-Yong Lee from the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, received the Award of Minister of Science and Technology. Salutorian Hee-Kwang Roh from the Department of Chemistry received the Award of the KAIST Board of Trustees, while the recipient of the KAIST Presidential Award was Hong Jae-Min from the School of Computing. President Sung-Chul Shin, Chairman of the Board of Trustees Woo-Sik Kim, former Minister of Science and Technology and former Provost at KAIST Dr. KunMo Chung, and a very limited number of faculty and staff members officiated the commencement ceremony from the KAIST auditorium. President Shin in his commencement speech applauded the graduates’ hard work and dedication and delivered a very special congratulatory message to them. He encouraged the new graduates to be courageous enough to deal with these new challenges as well as future uncertainties, during the greatest transformation brought about by COVID-19. “Instead of following behind others as a fast follower, we should take the initiative and walk down new paths as a first mover.” He also stressed, “We can transform this crisis into an opportunity by practicing the C3 values KAIST pursues: Challenging, Creating, and Caring.” As new alumni of Korea’s top science and technology university, he said, “Our graduates should focus on creating the world’s best, first, or only one in their research or their work.” However, he also pointed out the importance of a caring mind for others when working together. At the ceremony, KAIST conferred an honorary doctorate degree to Dr. Younghoon David Kim, CEO and Chairman of Daesung Group, in recognition of his lifetime dedication to making innovations in the energy industry. Daesung Group is a leading energy company in Korea which manufactures and supplies natural gas for industries and home users. Dr. Kim is committed to making efficient energy sources by advancing cutting-energy sciences and disruptive technologies. He has served as chairman of the World Energy Council since 2016. In his acceptance speech, Kim stressed the Grand Energy Transition as a new driving force in the future energy industry for maximizing energy efficiency. “Since energy is the most basic foundation for all industries, improvements in energy efficiency translate into benefits for all related industries in terms of its efficiency and productivity.” “The Grand Energy Transition is progressing widely and rapidly across the entire value chain of energy production, distribution, and consumption with decarbonization, decentralization, and digitalization serving as its driving force.” He went on, “We should regard energy efficiency not as the fifth fuel but the first primary fuel.” (END)
Deep Learning-Based Cough Recognition Model Helps Detect the Location of Coughing Sounds in Real Time
The Center for Noise and Vibration Control at KAIST announced that their coughing detection camera recognizes where coughing happens, visualizing the locations. The resulting cough recognition camera can track and record information about the person who coughed, their location, and the number of coughs on a real-time basis. Professor Yong-Hwa Park from the Department of Mechanical Engineering developed a deep learning-based cough recognition model to classify a coughing sound in real time. The coughing event classification model is combined with a sound camera that visualizes their locations in public places. The research team said they achieved a best test accuracy of 87.4 %. Professor Park said that it will be useful medical equipment during epidemics in public places such as schools, offices, and restaurants, and to constantly monitor patients’ conditions in a hospital room. Fever and coughing are the most relevant respiratory disease symptoms, among which fever can be recognized remotely using thermal cameras. This new technology is expected to be very helpful for detecting epidemic transmissions in a non-contact way. The cough event classification model is combined with a sound camera that visualizes the cough event and indicates the location in the video image. To develop a cough recognition model, a supervised learning was conducted with a convolutional neural network (CNN). The model performs binary classification with an input of a one-second sound profile feature, generating output to be either a cough event or something else. In the training and evaluation, various datasets were collected from Audioset, DEMAND, ETSI, and TIMIT. Coughing and others sounds were extracted from Audioset, and the rest of the datasets were used as background noises for data augmentation so that this model could be generalized for various background noises in public places. The dataset was augmented by mixing coughing sounds and other sounds from Audioset and background noises with the ratio of 0.15 to 0.75, then the overall volume was adjusted to 0.25 to 1.0 times to generalize the model for various distances. The training and evaluation datasets were constructed by dividing the augmented dataset by 9:1, and the test dataset was recorded separately in a real office environment. In the optimization procedure of the network model, training was conducted with various combinations of five acoustic features including spectrogram, Mel-scaled spectrogram and Mel-frequency cepstrum coefficients with seven optimizers. The performance of each combination was compared with the test dataset. The best test accuracy of 87.4% was achieved with Mel-scaled Spectrogram as the acoustic feature and ASGD as the optimizer. The trained cough recognition model was combined with a sound camera. The sound camera is composed of a microphone array and a camera module. A beamforming process is applied to a collected set of acoustic data to find out the direction of incoming sound source. The integrated cough recognition model determines whether the sound is cough or not. If it is, the location of cough is visualized as a contour image with a ‘cough’ label at the location of the coughing sound source in a video image. A pilot test of the cough recognition camera in an office environment shows that it successfully distinguishes cough events and other events even in a noisy environment. In addition, it can track the location of the person who coughed and count the number of coughs in real time. The performance will be improved further with additional training data obtained from other real environments such as hospitals and classrooms. Professor Park said, “In a pandemic situation like we are experiencing with COVID-19, a cough detection camera can contribute to the prevention and early detection of epidemics in public places. Especially when applied to a hospital room, the patient's condition can be tracked 24 hours a day and support more accurate diagnoses while reducing the effort of the medical staff." This study was conducted in collaboration with SM Instruments Inc. Profile: Yong-Hwa Park, Ph.D. Associate Professor firstname.lastname@example.org http://human.kaist.ac.kr/ Human-Machine Interaction Laboratory (HuMaN Lab.) Department of Mechanical Engineering (ME) Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) https://www.kaist.ac.kr/en/ Daejeon 34141, Korea Profile: Gyeong Tae Lee PhD Candidate email@example.com HuMaN Lab., ME, KAIST Profile: Seong Hu Kim PhD Candidate firstname.lastname@example.org HuMaN Lab., ME, KAIST Profile: Hyeonuk Nam PhD Candidate email@example.com HuMaN Lab., ME, KAIST Profile: Young-Key Kim CEO firstname.lastname@example.org http://en.smins.co.kr/ SM Instruments Inc. Daejeon 34109, Korea (END)
Study Finds Interferon Triggers Inflammation in Severe COVID-19
KAIST medical scientists and their colleagues confirmed that the type I interferon response plays a pivotal role in exacerbating inflammation in severe COVID-19 cases. Severe COVID-19 has been shown to be caused by a hyper-inflammatory response. Particularly, inflammatory cytokines secreted by classical monocytes and macrophages are believed to play a crucial role in the severe progression of COVID-19. A new single-cell RNA sequencing analysis of more than 59,000 cells from three different patient cohorts provided a detailed look at patients’ immune responses in severe cases of COVID-19. The results suggest that patients with severe cases of COVID-19 experience increased regulation of the type I interferon (IFN-I) inflammation-triggering pathway, a signature that the researchers also observed in patients hospitalized with severe cases of influenza. Their findings suggest that anti-inflammatory treatment strategies for COVID-19 should also be aimed toward the IFN-I signaling pathway, in addition to targeting inflammatory molecules such as TNF, IL-1, and IL-6, which have been associated with COVID-19. The research team under Professor Eui-Cheol Shin from the Graduate School of Medical Science and Engineering sequenced the RNA from a total of 59,572 blood cells obtained from four healthy donors, eight patients with mild or severe COVID-19, and five patients with severe influenza. By comparison, patients with severe cases of influenza showed increased expression of various IFN-stimulated genes, but did not experience TNF/IL-1 responses as seen in COVID-19 patients. Unlike the flu cohort, patients in the severe COVID-19 cohort exhibited the IFN-I signature concurrently with TNF/IL-1-driven inflammation – a combination also not seen in patients with milder cases of COVID-19. Their result, along with past mouse studies that highlight how the timing of IFN-I expression is critical to determining the outcome of SARS, support targeting IFN-I as a potential treatment strategy for severe COVID-19. Professor Shin said, “This research provides insights for designing therapeutic options for COVID-19 by investigating very closely how the immune cells of COVDI-19 patients develop. We will continue to conduct research on novel therapeutic immune mechanisms and target therapeutic anti-inflammatory medication to improve the survival of severe COVID-19 patients.” This study, conducted in collaboration with Severance Hospital at Yonsei University, Asan Medical Center, and Chungbuk National University, was featured in Science Immunology on July 10. This work was funded by Samsung Science and Technology Foundation and SUHF Fellowship. -PublicationScience Immunology 10 Jul 2020:Vol. 5, Issue 49, eabd1554DOI: 10.1126/sciimmunol.abd1554 -ProfileProfessorEui-Cheol ShinGraduate School of Medical Science and EngineeringLaboratory of Immunology & Infectious Diseases (http://liid.kaist.ac.kr/)email@example.comKAIST
COVID-19 Update: Fall Semester to Continue Offering Classes Online
KAIST announced that the university would continue online classes through the fall semester. However, the university will conduct additional in-person classes for upper-level undergraduate lab classes and some graduate courses where on-site interaction was deemed to be highly necessary. Some 600-level graduate courses at the Daejeon campus and graduate courses at the Seoul campus will carry out both in-person and online classes. The fall semester will start from August 31. Provost and Executive Vice President Kwang Hyung Lee announced the fall semester plan in his letter to the entire student body on July 9. He said that the university decided to continue with online classes in consideration of the safety of KAIST community members and the current status of the COVID-19 spread. However, he said the new plan will help students choose class options between in-person and online classes. “Although the number of classes with two versions is limited, we believe this will help many students continue learning without the sustained face-to-face contact that is inherent in residential education,” Provost Lee said. In-person classes conducted in the fall semester will also be provided online for students who are not available for in-person classes. Students may choose the type of the classes they prefer according to their situation, among only the courses that will offer two versions. Professors will decide if they will conduct two versions of their classes. The Office of Academic Affairs is collecting the professors’ applications for conducting both versions until July 24. KAIST offered real-time online classes and pre-recorded KLMS (KAIST Learning Management System) classes during the spring semester with a very limited number of in-person lab classes for graduate courses and these two versions of online class will continue for fall semester. Provost Lee asked the students who will take the in-person classes to strictly observe all precaution measures as the university will do its best to abide by the government guidelines against the Covid-19 in preparation for the fall semester. “We will continue to make appropriate and safe accommodations for them,” said Provost Lee. Those who need to reside in on-campus dormitories are required to be approved for moving. The applications will open after all the in-person class schedules are fixed next month. However, students who were approved for staying in the dormitories last semester can move in without additional approval procedures for the fall semester. (END)
Education, a Silver Lining in the Dark COVID-19 Cloud
If there is a silver lining behind the COVID-19 pandemic clouds engulfing the world in darkness, it would be ‘education’. The disruption caused by the pandemic has reminded us of the skills that students need in this unpredictable world and raised public awareness of guaranteeing continuous, fair, and quality learning opportunities. Educational innovation can become a positive and powerful catalyst to transform the world for a better future in the post-COVID era. According to the speakers at the virtual forum co-hosted by the Global Strategy Institute (GSI) and Korea Policy Center for the Fourth Industrial Revolution (KPC4IR) at KAIST on June 24, the recent transition to remote education amplifies the existing socio-economic disparities between the haves and the have-nots, and narrowing the digital divide is the most urgent challenge that should be addressed in this ever-evolving technology-dominating era. They also called for students to be resilient despite the numerous uncertainties ahead of them and prepare new skill sets to better adjust to new environments. KAIST launched the GSI as its think tank in February of this year. The GSI aims to identify global issues proactively and help make breakthroughs well aligned with solid science and technology-based policies. The second forum of the KAIST GSI, following its inaugural forum in April, was held under the theme “Envisioning the Future of Education for a Non-Contact Society in the Post-Coronavirus Era”. In his opening remarks, KAIST President Sung-Chul Shin stressed that “distance teaching and learning will eventually become integral components of our future education system”. He then called for close collaboration between the public and private sectors to better shape the future of digital education. President Shin said that global cooperation is also needed to continue offering inclusive, quality education that can equally benefit every student around the world. “We should never let a crisis go to waste, and the COVID-19 pandemic is no exception,” he added. CEO of Minerva Schools Ben Nelson described the current coronavirus crisis as “an earthquake happening deep down on the ocean floor – we don’t feel it, but it can cause a devastating tsunami.” He continued, “Online learning can totally change the current education system forever.” Saying that blended education, which combines online and offline classes, will be the new norm in the post-coronavirus era, Coursera CEO Jeff Maggioncalda anticipates that institutions will have to offer more and more online courses and credentials, and should at the same time prepare to drive down the cost of education as students expect to pay much less in tuition and fees for online learning options. “With the economy slumping and unemployment soaring, job-relevant education will also be a must,” Maggioncalda said. National University of Singapore President Tan Eng Chye further pointed out that future education systems should prepare students to be creative lifelong learners. President Tan encouraged students to be able to integrate knowledge and technical skills from multiple disciplines for complex problem solving, and be adaptable and resilient with bigger appetites for risks and a higher tolerance for failures. He also mentioned digital competency, empathy, and social responsibility as virtues that students in the post-coronavirus era should possess. Rebecca Winthrop, Co-Director of the Center for Universal Education at the Brookings Institution, raised concerns over the ever-growing digital disparities caused by the recent shift to online teaching and learning, claiming that insufficient infrastructures for low-income families in developing nations are already causing added educational disparities and provoking the inequity issue around the world. “New approaches to leapfrog inequality and provide quality education equally through faster and more effective means should be studied,” she said. In response to this, Vice President of Microsoft Anthony Salcito introduced the Microsoft Education Transformation Framework, which provides practical advice to develop strategies for digital education transformation with a holistic, long-term view implemented in discrete phases that the global community can begin today. The Framework reportedly shows how emerging technologies, such as artificial intelligence, support new approaches to building efficient and effective physical and digital infrastructure, modernizing teaching and learning, empowering research, and managing student success. The GSI will host two more forums in September and November. (END)
KAIST Forum Envisions Education in the Post-Covid Era
Global leaders including the CEOs of Minerva and Coursera to join the KAIST online forum to discuss how to facilitate inclusive educational environment amidst the ever-growing digital disparities An international forum hosted by the KAIST Global Strategy Institute will examine how the disruptions caused by the global pandemic will impact the future of education. Global leaders will reflect on ways to better facilitate inclusive educational environments and mitigate the digital divide, especially in an era where non-contact environments are so critical. The online forum to be held on June 24 from 09:00 am KST will livestream on YouTube and KTV. This is the second forum hosted by the GSI following its inaugural forum in April. Minerva School’s CEO Ben Nelson and Coursera CEO Jeff Maggioncalda will be among the 15 speakers who will share their insights on the new transformations in the education sector. The digital transformation of higher education will be the key topic every speaker will highlight to predict the future education in the post-Covid era. According to UNESCO and UNICEF, 1.6 billion students from 192 countries, which account for 91 percent of the student population in the world, have experienced educational disruptions in the past four months. Approximately 29 percent of the youth worldwide, around 346 million individuals, are not online. KAIST President Sung-Chul Shin’s opening remarks will stress that technological breakthroughs should be used to benefit us all and the private and public sectors should collaborate to facilitate an inclusive educational environment. Ben Nelson believes that global universities are at the point of inflection for making tough choices to reform higher education. He will introduce what will affect the decision-making procedure for investing in the digital transformation and the best recipe for building a successful remote learning environment. Dr. Paul Kim, CTO and Assistant Dean of Stanford Graduate School of Education, will analyze the ramifications brought about by Covid-19 among both advanced countries and developing countries, and propose an optimal educational model for developing countries. Phil Baty, Chief Knowledge Officer at Times Higher Education, will present the key survey results the Times Higher Education made with approximately 200 university presidents on how higher education will adapt in the years to come. As for innovation in higher education, Vice President at Microsoft Anthony Salcito and Professor Tae Eog Lee from the Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering at KAIST will discuss the education innovation solutions they are currently working on and how their projects will continue to develop. National University of Singapore President Tan Eng Chye will also opine on how education could be more accessible. He will share what is exacerbating educational inequity and how to ensure an inclusive learning environment. The second session will cover how to cope with the digital inequity. Director General at the Ministry of Science and ICT Sang Wook Kang will explain the unavoidable online transition that is required to address the educational disruptions. He will also share his ideas on how this crisis can be leveraged to advance the educational environment. Meanwhile, Rebecca Winthrop, senior fellow and co-director for universal education at Brooking Institution, and Sooinn Lee, CEO and Creative Lead of Enuma, will present on how to reduce the educational disparity during the un-contact era. Director Joung-Ho Kim at the GSI, who is the organizer of the forum, said that KAIST has been the forerunner in the educational innovation. He hopes that this online forum will provide meaningful momentum to reshape the future of education by addressing the challenges and disruptions this pandemic has caused. URL Link to Live-Streaming Service: https://www.youtube.com/c/KAISTofficial
Universal Virus Detection Platform to Expedite Viral Diagnosis
Reactive polymer-based tester pre-screens dsRNAs of a wide range of viruses without their genome sequences The prompt, precise, and massive detection of a virus is the key to combat infectious diseases such as Covid-19. A new viral diagnostic strategy using reactive polymer-grafted, double-stranded RNAs will serve as a pre-screening tester for a wide range of viruses with enhanced sensitivity. Currently, the most widely using viral detection methodology is polymerase chain reaction (PCR) diagnosis, which amplifies and detects a piece of the viral genome. Prior knowledge of the relevant primer nucleic acids of the virus is quintessential for this test. The detection platform developed by KAIST researchers identifies viral activities without amplifying specific nucleic acid targets. The research team, co-led by Professor Sheng Li and Professor Yoosik Kim from the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, constructed a universal virus detection platform by utilizing the distinct features of the PPFPA-grafted surface and double-stranded RNAs. The key principle of this platform is utilizing the distinct feature of reactive polymer-grafted surfaces, which serve as a versatile platform for the immobilization of functional molecules. These activated surfaces can be used in a wide range of applications including separation, delivery, and detection. As long double-stranded RNAs are common byproducts of viral transcription and replication, these PPFPA-grafted surfaces can detect the presence of different kinds of viruses without prior knowledge of their genomic sequences. “We employed the PPFPA-grafted silicon surface to develop a universal virus detection platform by immobilizing antibodies that recognize double-stranded RNAs,” said Professor Kim. To increase detection sensitivity, the research team devised two-step detection process analogues to sandwich enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay where the bound double-stranded RNAs are then visualized using fluorophore-tagged antibodies that also recognize the RNAs’ double-stranded secondary structure. By utilizing the developed platform, long double-stranded RNAs can be detected and visualized from an RNA mixture as well as from total cell lysates, which contain a mixture of various abundant contaminants such as DNAs and proteins. The research team successfully detected elevated levels of hepatitis C and A viruses with this tool. “This new technology allows us to take on virus detection from a new perspective. By targeting a common biomarker, viral double-stranded RNAs, we can develop a pre-screening platform that can quickly differentiate infected populations from non-infected ones,” said Professor Li. “This detection platform provides new perspectives for diagnosing infectious diseases. This will provide fast and accurate diagnoses for an infected population and prevent the influx of massive outbreaks,” said Professor Kim. This work is featured in Biomacromolecules. This work was supported by the Agency for Defense Development (Grant UD170039ID), the Ministry of Science and ICT (NRF-2017R1D1A1B03034660, NRF-2019R1C1C1006672), and the KAIST Future Systems Healthcare Project from the Ministry of Science and ICT (KAISTHEALTHCARE42). Profile:-Professor Yoosik KimDepartment of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineeringhttps://qcbio.kaist.ac.kr KAIST-Professor Sheng LiDepartment of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineeringhttps://bcpolymer.kaist.ac.kr KAIST Publication:Ku et al., 2020. Reactive Polymer Targeting dsRNA as Universal Virus Detection Platform with Enhanced Sensitivity. Biomacromolecules (https://doi.org/10.1021/acs.biomac.0c00379).
Antivirus Industry the Centerpiece of New Deal R&D Initiatives
- KAIST launches post-COVID-19 R&D initiatives for smart mobile medical systems. - KAIST will make the antivirus industry the centerpiece of what it is touting as the KAIST New Deal R&D initiative, which will drive new growth engines for preparing for the post-coronavirus era. According to the new initiative, KAIST will concentrate on creating antivirus technologies, infectious disease-related big data management, and non-contact services platforms as key future R&D projects. President Sung-Chul Shin launched the COVID-19 R&D Initiative task force last month, composed of more than 50 professors from the Graduate School of Medical Science and Engineering, the Department of Biological Sciences, the College of Engineering, and the Department of Industrial Design. The task force came up with key research agendas that will promote smart mobile medical systems in the years ahead. “We will devote all of our R&D capacities to pursue a smart healthcare society,” said President Shin. “Our competitiveness in the fields of AI, ICT, materials, and bio-technology holds significant potential for building a healthy society powered by smart medical systems in Korea,” he added. The smart medical systems focus mainly on building an Epidemic Mitigating Mobile Module (EMMM). The EMMM will manage epidemics via the three phases of prevention, emergency response, and treatment, with the development of each phase’s technological modules. The EMMM will also build an AI big data platform to assist with clinical applications and epidemic management. Technologies applicable for the prevention phase include developing recyclable antivirus masks, plasma virus sterilizers, and smart breathable protective gowns. KAIST researchers will also focus on developing diagnosis modules that will identify epidemics more quickly and accurately. Most significantly, KAIST aims to develop technologies for anti-infection medical services such as the transformable negative pressure ambulance module and negative pressure room, which are specially developed for respiratory infections. The new R&D initiatives will center on virus therapies and treatments, specifically pushing forward vaccine and robotics studies. As caring robots and delivery robots will become common as main caregivers via noncontact services, research focusing on robotics will be significantly enhanced. Even before launching the new R&D initiatives, researchers have started to present new technologies to help address the pandemic. Professor Il-Doo Kim’s team in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering developed a washable nano-fiber filtered face mask that is preparing for commercialization. GPS tracking of infections has expanded comprehensively to detect both indoor and outdoor activities of infected patients. Professor Dong-Soo Han from the School of Computing developed Wi-Fi positioning software built into mobile phones that can trace both activities and is now preparing to roll it out. Virologist Ui-Cheol Shin from the Graduate School of Medical Science and Engineering is carrying out research on a universal T-cell vaccine that can block the Betacoronaviruses. It is reported that that new epidemics such as SARS, MERS, and COVID-19 carry Betacoronaviruses. Research teams in the Graduate School of AI are conducting various research projects on building prediction models for outbreaks and spreads using big data. (END)
Long Economic Depressions and Disparities Loom in the Wake of the COVID-19
"Global Cooperation for Managing Data Key to Mitigating the Impacts Around the World" <Full recorded video of the GSI-IF2020> The COVID-19 pandemic will lead to long economic depressions around the entire world. Experts predicted that the prevalent inequities among the countries, regions, and individuals will aggravate the economic crisis. However, crises always come with new opportunities and international cooperation and solidarity will help creating a new normal in the post-coronavirus era. In a very basic but urgent step, global cooperation for managing data is the key to respond to COVID-19 since medicine and healthcare are intertwined with data science, said experts during an online international forum hosted by the Global Strategy Institute at KAIST on April 22. KAIST launched its think-tank, the Global Strategy Institute (GSI), in February. The GSI aims to identify global issues proactively and help make breakthroughs well aligned with solid science-based policies. The inaugural forum of the GSI focused on how the COVID-19 pandemic would impact socio-economic, scientific, and political landscapes, under the theme “Global Cooperation in the Coronavirus Era.” In his opening remarks, KAIST President Sung-Chul Shin stressed that future global governance will be dominated by the power of science and technology. “If we can implement efficient policies together with troubleshooting technology for responding to future crises, we will emerge stronger than before,” he said. President Shin said ‘the Korean model’, which is being recognized as a shining example for dealing with the pandemic, is the result of collaborations combining the creativity of the private sector, the public sector’s strong infrastructure, and the full support of the citizens. He added, “Without the technological prowess coming from the competent R&D power of Korea, we could not achieve these impressive results.” “Creative collaboration among the private and public sectors, along with research universities from around the world, will help shore up global resilience against the epidemic. We should work together to build a world of growing prosperity,” President Shin said. Prime Minister Sye-Kyun Chung, who is in charge of the Central Disaster and Safety Countermeasures Headquarters in Korea, stressed global solidarity in his welcoming remarks, saying that “We need to share information and rely on the strength of our connections, rather than retreating into nationalistic isolation.” Peter Lee, Vice President of the Microsoft Healthcare, pointed out in his welcoming remarks three critical sectors for global cooperation: medicine and healthcare, public health and prevention, and life and the economy. He emphasized the rule of thumb for managing data, saying that data in these fields should be open, standardized, and shared among countries to combat this global pandemic. During a keynote session, Director General of the International Vaccine Institute (IVI) Jerome Kim described the challenges that go along with developing a vaccine. Dr. Kim said that only 7% of vaccine candidates go through the clinical trial stages, and it will take five to 10 years to completely prove a new vaccine’s safety after completing three stages of clinical tests. “It’s very challenging to develop the vaccine for COVID-19 within 12 to 15 months,” said Dr. Kim. He added that 78 out of 115 candidates are currently undergoing clinical trials around the world. There are five groups, including Moderna, Inovio, Jenner Institute, CanSino, and the Beijing Institute of Biological Products, who are doing clinical trials in phases 1 and 2. “Given the fact that COVID-19 is a totally new type of virus, various stakeholders’ participation, such as the National Immunization Technical Advisory Groups, the WHO, and UNICEF, is needed to work together to benefit the entire world,” he pointed out. Professor Edward Yoonjae Choi from the Graduate School of AI at KAIST shared how AI and data sciences are being utilized to interpret the major trends of the epidemic. His group mainly focuses on deep learning to model electronic health records (EHR) for disease predictions. Professor Choi said AI and machine learning would be crucial solutions and collaborative research projects will surely accelerate how quickly we can overcome the pandemic. In addition, Dr. Kijung Shin’s group is interpreting the SIR (Susceptible, Infected, and Recovered) model in Korea to predict the number of infections and when people were infected. However, researchers noticed that they could not see the typical modeling in Korea for predicting the number of infections since the model disregarded the new variable of humans’ efforts to stop the spread the virus. According to research by Professor Steven Whang’s group on social distancing and face mask distribution among vulnerable age groups, people in their 20s, 60s, and 70s followed the social distancing guidelines the most strictly. The research team analyzed the data provided by SK Telecom in the Gangnam district of Seoul. The data provided on people in their 70s, a group that accounted for half of all fatalities, showed that masks were generally well distributed nationwide. Dr. Alexandros Papaspyrids, Tertiary Education Industry Director of the Asia region of Microsoft, said that despite all the disadvantages and problems related to remote education, we shouldn’t expect to return to the days before the COVID-19 any time soon. “We should accept the new normal and explore new opportunities in the new educational environment,” he said. Hongtaek Yong, Deputy Minister at the Office of R&D Policy at the Ministry of Science and ICT presented the Korean government’s disease prevention and response policy and how they tried to mitigate the economic and social impact. He stressed the government’s fast testing, tracing, and openness for successfully flattening the curve, adding that the government used an ICT-based approach in all aspects of their response. From early this year when the first patient was reported, the government aggressively encouraged the biotech industry to develop diagnostic kits and novel therapeutic medications. As a result, five companies were able to produce genetic diagnostic reagents through the emergency approval. More notably, four of them are conducting massive R&D projects sponsored by the government and this is the result of the government’s continuous investment in R&D. Korea is the leader in R&D investment among the OECD countries. According to Yong, the government’s big data project that was launched in 2017 continuously traces the trends of epidemics in Korea. The epidemiological studies based on the paths taken by suspected patients using credit card transaction made the difference in predicting the spread of the coronavirus and implementing countermeasures. The data has been provided to the Korea’s Center for Disease Control (CDC). “In addition to the epidemics, we have so many other pending issues arising from digital and social equities, un-contact services, and job security. We are very open to collaborate and cooperate with other countries to deal with this global crisis,” Yong said. During the subsequent panel discussions, David Dollar, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, said, “The global economy in the coronavirus era will not have a rapid V-shaped recovery, but rather will fall into a long depression for at least two years.” He pointed out that if countries practice protectionism like they did during the Great Depression, the recession will be even worse. Hence, he urged the international community, especially developed nations, to avoid protectionism, consider the economic difficulties of developing countries, and provide them with financial support. Co-Director of the Center for Universal Education at the Brookings Institution Rebecca Winthrop raised concerns over the recent shift to online teaching and learning, claiming that insufficient infrastructures in low-income families in developing nations are already causing added educational disparities and provoking the inequity issue around the world. “The ways to provide quality education equally through faster and more effective means should be studied,” she said. Professor Joungho Kim, the director of the KAIST GSI and the forum’s organizer, concluded the event by saying that this forum will be a valuable resource for everyone who is providing assistance to those in need, both during and after the COVID-19 pandemic. (END)
14-Day Drawing Challenge Helps Maintain a Sense of Connection Amid Prolonged Social Distancing
- “You need space, but you also need connections.” - Schools and workplaces have closed and people are staying at home around the globe. Governments across the world have urged their people to keep a distance from others as a measure to slow the spread of the pandemic. With the Korean government’s decision to extend the intensive social distancing campaign until at least April 19, people in Korea are advised to avoid nonessential trips, public facilities, and social gatherings for another two weeks or so. This unprecedented prolonged social distancing drive leads people to feel fatigue and frustration. Such emotional stress is worse for those who live alone in a foreign country. The International Scholar and Student Services (ISSS) Team at KAIST has been working around the clock to build a dedicated COVID-19 Mental Health Support Service to support the university’s international community on campus and abroad and help get them connected online. As the COVID-19 situation lingers, there has been a growing demand for mental health support from many KAIST international members including 299 students who have been staying in Korea on their own and away from their families, as well as from those who could not return to campus from their overseas homes. In response to this, the KAIST ISSS Team has been offering some special online events and programs that can help the KAIST international community stay feeling connected whereever they are, while still keeping a safe distance from each other. For instance, the team is running an art-therapy program called ‘The 14-day Drawing Challenge’ March 30 through April 12. This program is online and individual-based, so it does not require any physical contact between participants. Each participant is asked to draw a picture at home using the daily topics previously set by the ISSS Team over 14 days. The topics include (Day 1) self-portrait, (Day 2) spring flowers, (Day 3) if you could become anything…, (Day 4) funniest memory you have, (Day 5) animals at KAIST, (Day 6) something you love, (Day 7) country or city you want to visit, (Day 8) what’s for dinner? (Day 9) person you miss, (Day 10) your favorite place at KAIST, (Day 11) your feeling today, (Day 12) things in your favorite color, (Day 13) song lyrics, and (Day 14) your future self in 10 years. Once all 14 pieces have been completed, submissions can be made online by sending an e-mail to the ISSS Team after scanning or taking a photo of each drawing. Selected submissions will be awarded small prizes for participation and shared through the university’s official website and SNS channels. “All the participants need is paper, coloring tools, and their creativity and imagination. They don’t have to be a great artist to join this challenge. There is no right or wrong or good or bad. They just need to have fun drawing every day for two weeks, ease their coronavirus anxiety, and remain emotionally stable just like they did back in the normal days,” said Su-yeon Ahn, the manager of the KAIST ISSS Team. She added, “In times like these, you need space, but you also need connections. Our team wants our international students, professors, and researchers to build strong connections with each other, even online.” Katherine Michelle Pena Santana, an M.S. candidate from the Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering who is taking part in ‘The 14-day Drawing Challenge,’ looked back and said, “Lately with the new coronavirus spreading around Korea and the entire world, I was feeling very anxious. I didn't get out of my room and lived by just looking at the same walls and creating some kind of a psychological burden on myself.” Santana added that these kinds of activities could give many foreign members of KAIST an opportunity to not only relieve fear and stress, but also share each other’s experiences dealing with this pandemic. She explained that this is why she decided to participate in this challenge. An undergraduate student from the Department of Physics, Ada Carpenter, appreciated the KAIST ISSS Team’s efforts to provide a variety of special online mental health support services to help the university’s international community socialize, while strictly following the government’s guidelines for social distancing. She expressed excitement about participating and said, “I’m so looking forward to the challenge of things that I wouldn’t normally draw.” < Short Self-interview Video Clip Filmed by Ada Carpenter > The COVID-19 Mental Health Support Service by the KAIST ISSS Team will be continually updated with new information and enhanced with other tools and support over the coming weeks and months. Some of the upcoming events and programs include ‘The Online Guitar Lessons’, ‘The Growing Houseplants Challenge’, and ‘The Any Song Challenge*’. * The song titled “Any Song” by Korean rapper Zico has been gaining attention on social media thanks to many celebrities taking on the ‘Any Song Challenge’, performing a short dance to the chorus of the song and sharing it on social media. (END)
COVID-19 Update: Reaching Out to Help Local Schools’ Online Classes
After the Ministry of Education decided that all schools would conduct online classes from April 9, schools began to ramp up online education tools and systems. On March 30, the Ministry announced a three-phased opening for the schools, putting online classes for third-year middle and high school students first. The online classes will expand to first and second-year middle and high schoolers and the upper grades of elementary schools on April 16, followed by first to third graders of elementary schools on April 20. Although some schools have already introduced online teaching and learning into the curriculum, most schools are still unprepared, raising concerns over possible educational disparities caused by insufficient infrastructures and a lack of training for teachers. To counter these issues, KAIST rolled up its sleeves to help teachers from 38 local middle and high schools in the Yuseong District of Daejeon better prepare for their interactive online classes by providing a special training course from April 7 through 29. Following the course, approximately 40 undergraduate and graduate students will be assigned to schools to help them set up and better utilize the online educational program. On April 3, Professor Youngsun Kwon, the Dean of KAIST Academy and the Director of the Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching, gave a two-hour online interactive tutorial session on the utilization of the real-time video conferencing platform ‘Zoom’ for online classes. He shared best practices for checking attendance, running classes, and giving and marking quizzes and assignments. A total of 102 local middle and high school teachers attended this session. “We feel very fortunate to reach out to teachers who are so passionate about learning online education methodology. We were pleasantly surprised to see this many educators show up for the tutorial session,” said Dean Kwon. He also appreciated KAIST students’ strong interests and support in the community outreach project in response to COVID-19 during these challenging times when social distancing is so critical. He said more than 150 student volunteers signed up for this project 10 hours after his office posted the opening for volunteers on the KAIST intranet. “We will help front-line school teachers, strictly following the government’s guidelines for social distancing,” he added. The students’ online class support group will provide additional help to schools that are inexperienced users of Zoom. The students will be those who are very familiar with online lectures using Zoom, and are fully acquainted with how to operate them. One or two of the students will be assigned to each school that requests support, and will directly help solve complications that stem from preparing and running the classes through online measures for safety reasons. The expenses for the support group’s activities will be fully covered by KAIST, and the period of support may be extended upon request. KAIST has been offering approximately 1,200 courses remotely since the spring semester opened on March 16 and will do so until the COVID-19 situation stabilizes. Along with the provision of pre-recorded one-way lecture contents, real-time two-way lessons are being delivered through various video conferencing platforms including Zoom, YouTube Live, and Microsoft Teams. There were both minor and major technical issues at the beginning of the semester, caused by the instability of servers and system overloads as well as from users being inexperienced with the tools and systems. However, the class procedures have gradually stabilized and are now running better. KAIST President Sung-Chul Shin said, “As the COVID-19 situation lingers, this is a more difficult time than ever, where all educational establishments and educators must quickly learn and apply new methods of education, often in insufficient preparation conditions.” He added, “KAIST will provide support for secondary schools in the region to quickly resolve the inconveniences caused by new users of online classes so that they may provide high-quality education.” (END)
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