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KAIST to support the Genetic Donguibogam Research Project for global market entry of a new natural drug produced by Green Cross Corporation HS
In the wake of the spread of the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), sales of immune-enhancing products in Korea such as red and white ginseng have risen dramatically. Ginseng is one of Korea’s major health supplement it exports, but due to the lack of precise scientific knowledge of its mechanism, sales of ginseng account for less than 2% of the global market share. The Genetic Donguibogam Research Project represents a group of research initiatives to study genes and environmental factors that contribute to diseases and to discover alternative treatments through Eastern medicine. The project is being led by KAIST’s Department of Bio & Brain Engineering Professor Do-Heon Lee. Professor Lee and Chief Executive Officer Young-Hyo Yoo of Green Cross Corporation HS, a Korean pharmaceutical company, signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU), as well as a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) to develop a naturally derived drug with an enhanced ginsenoside, pharmacological compounds of ginseng, for the global market entry of BST204 on June 10, 2015. Donguibogam is the traditional Korean source for the principles and practice of Eastern medicine, which was compiled by the royal physician Heo Jun and first published in 1613 during the Joseon Dynasty of Korea. Cooperating with Green Cross Co., HS, KAIST researchers will use a multi-component, multi-target (MCMT)-based development platform to produce the new natural drug, BST204. This cooperation is expected to assist the entry of the drug into the European market. Green Cross Co., HS has applied a bio-conversion technique to ginseng to develop BST204, which is a drug with enhanced active constituent of aginsenosides. The drug is the first produced by any Korean pharmaceutical company to complete the first phase of clinical trials in Germany and is about to start the second phase of trials. Professor Do-Heon Lee, the Director of the project said, “Genetic Donguibogam Research Project seeks to create new innovative healthcare material for the future using integrated fundamental technologies such as virtual human body computer modelling and multi-omics to explain the mechanism in which natural ingredients affect the human body.” He continued, “Especially, by employing the virtual human body computer modelling, we can develop an innovative new technology that will greatly assist Korean pharmaceutical industry and make it the platform technology in entering global markets.” Young-Hyo Yoo, the CEO of Green Cross Co., HS, said, “For a new naturally derived drug to be acknowledged in the global market, such as Europe and the US, its mechanism, as well as its effectiveness and safety, should be proven. However, it is difficult and costly to explain the mechanism in which the complex composition of a natural substance influences the body. Innovative technology is needed to solve this problem.” Professor Do-Heon Lee (left in the picture), the Director of Genetic Donguibogam Research Project, stands abreast Young-Hyo Yoo (right in the picture), the CEO of Green Cross Co., HS.
Novel Photolithographic Technology Enabling 3D Control over Functional Shapes of Microstructures
Professor Shin-Hyun Kim and his research team in the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at KAIST have developed a novel photolithographic technology enabling control over the functional shapes of micropatterns using oxygen diffusion. The research was published online in the March 13th issue of Nature Communications and was selected as a featured image for the journal. Photolithography is a standard optical process for transferring micropatterns on to a substrate by exposing specific regions of the photoresist layer to ultraviolet (UV) light. It is used widely throughout industries that require micropatterns, especially in the semiconductor manufacturing industry. Conventional photolithography relied on photomasks which protected certain regions of the substrate from the input UV light. Areas covered by the photomasks remain intact with the base layer while the areas exposed to the UV light are washed away, thus creating a micropattern. This technology was limited to a two-dimensional, disc-shaped design as the boundaries between the exposed and roofed regions are always in a parallel arrangement with the direction of the light. Professor Kim’s research team discovered that: 1) the areas exposed to UV light lowered the concentration of oxygen and thus resulted in oxygen diffusion; and 2) manipulation of the diffusion speed and direction allowed control of the growth, shape and size of the polymers. Based on these findings, the team developed a new photolithographic technology that enabled the production of micropatterns with three-dimensional structures in various shapes and sizes. Oxygen was considered an inhibitor during photopolymerization. Photoresist under UV light creates radicals which initialize a chemical reaction. These radicals are eliminated with the presence of oxygen and thus prevents the reaction. This suggests that the photoresist must be exposed to UV light for an extended time to completely remove oxygen for a chemical reaction to begin. The research team, however, exploited the presence of oxygen. While the region affected by the UV light lowered oxygen concentration, the concentration in the untouched region remained unchanged. This difference in the concentrations caused a diffusion of oxygen to the region under UV light. When the speed of the oxygen flow is slow, the diffusion occurs in parallel with the direction of the UV light. When fast, the diffusion process develops horizontally, outward from the area affected by the UV light. Professor Kim and his team proved this phenomenon both empirically and theoretically. Furthermore, by injecting an external oxygen source, the team was able to manipulate diffusion strength and direction, and thus control the shape and size of the polymer. The use of the polymerization inhibitors enabled and facilitated the fabrication of complex, three-dimensional micropatterns. Professor Kim said, “While 3D printing is considered an innovative manufacturing technology, it cannot be used for mass-production of microscopic products. The new photolithographic technology will have a broad impact on both the academia and industry especially because existing, conventional photolithographic equipment can be used for the development of more complex micropatterns.” His newest technology will enhance the manufacturing process of three-dimensional polymers which were considered difficult to be commercialized. The research was also dedicated to the late Professor Seung-Man Yang of the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at KAIST. He was considered one of the greatest scholars in Korea in the field of hydrodynamics and colloids. Picture 1: Featured Image of Nature Communications, March 2015 Picture 2: Polymers with various shapes and sizes produced with the new photolithographic technology developed by Professor Kim
Prof. Lee"s Team Succeeds in Producing Plastics Without Use of Fossil Fuels
A team of scientists led by Prof. Sang-Yup Lee of the Department of Biological Sciences at KAIST have succeeded in producing the polymers used for everyday plastics through bioengineering, rather than through the use of fossil fuel based chemicals, the university authorities said on Tuesday (Nov. 24). This groundbreaking research, which may now allow for the production of environmentally conscious plastics, has been published in two papers in the journal Biotechnology and Bioengineering. Polymers are molecules found in everyday life in the form of plastics and rubbers. The team consisted of scientists from KAIST and Korean chemical company LG Chem focused their research on polylactic acid (PLA), a bio-based polymer which holds the key to producing plastics through natural and renewable resources. "The polyesters and other polymers we use everyday are mostly derived from fossil oils made through the refinery or chemical process," said Lee. "The idea of producing polymers from renewable biomass has attracted much attention due to the increasing concerns of environmental problems and the limited nature of fossil resources. PLA is considered a good alternative to petroleum based plastics as it is both biodegradable and has a low toxicity to humans." Until now PLA has been produced in a two-step fermentation and chemical process of polymerization, which is both complex and expensive. Now, through the use of a metabolically engineered strain of E.coli, the team has developed a one-stage process which produces polylactic acid and its copolymers through direct fermentation. This makes the renewable production of PLA and lactate-containing copolymers cheaper and more commercially viable. "By developing a strategy which combines metabolic engineering and enzyme engineering, we"ve developed an efficient bio-based one-step production process for PLA and its copolymers," said Lee. "This means that a developed E. coli strain is now capable of efficiently producing unnatural polymers, through a one-step fermentation process," This combined approach of systems-level metabolic engineering and enzyme engineering now allows for the production of polymer and polyester based products through direct microbial fermentation of renewable resources. "Global warming and other environmental problems are urging us to develop sustainable processes based on renewable resources," concluded Lee. "This new strategy should be generally useful for developing other engineered organisms capable of producing various unnatural polymers by direct fermentation from renewable resources".
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