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A Mathematical Model Shows High Viral Transmissions Reduce the Progression Rates for Severe Covid-19
The model suggests a clue as to when a pandemic will turn into an endemic A mathematical model demonstrated that high transmission rates among highly vaccinated populations of COVID-19 ultimately reduce the numbers of severe cases. This model suggests a clue as to when this pandemic will turn into an endemic. With the future of the pandemic remaining uncertain, a research team of mathematicians and medical scientists analyzed a mathematical model that may predict how the changing transmission rate of COVID-19 would affect the settlement process of the virus as a mild respiratory virus. The team led by Professor Jae Kyoung Kim from the Department of Mathematical Science and Professor Eui-Cheol Shin from the Graduate School of Medical Science and Engineering used a new approach by dividing the human immune responses to SARS-CoV-2 into a shorter-term neutralizing antibody response and a longer-term T-cell immune response, and applying them each to a mathematical model. Additionally, the analysis was based on the fact that although breakthrough infection may occur frequently, the immune response of the patient will be boosted after recovery from each breakthrough infection. The results showed that in an environment with a high vaccination rate, although COVID-19 cases may rise temporarily when the transmission rate increases, the ratio of critical cases would ultimately decline, thereby decreasing the total number of critical cases and in fact settling COVID-19 as a mild respiratory disease more quickly. Conditions in which the number of cases may spike include relaxing social distancing measures or the rise of variants with higher transmission rates like the Omicron variant. This research did not take the less virulent characteristic of the Omicron variant into account but focused on the results of its high transmission rate, thereby predicting what may happen in the process of the endemic transition of COVID-19. The research team pointed out the limitations of their mathematical model, such as the lack of consideration for age or patients with underlying diseases, and explained that the results of this study must be applied with care when compared against high-risk groups. Additionally, as medical systems may collapse when the number of cases rises sharply, this study must be interpreted with prudence and applied accordingly. The research team therefore emphasized that for policies that encourage a step-wise return to normality to succeed, the sustainable maintenance of public health systems is indispensable. Professor Kim said, “We have drawn a counter-intuitive conclusion amid the unpredictable pandemic through an adequate mathematical model,” asserting the importance of applying mathematical models to medical research. Professor Shin said, “Although the Omicron variant has become the dominant strain and the number of cases is rising rapidly in South Korea, it is important to use scientific approaches to predict the future and apply them to policies rather than fearing the current situation.” The results of the research were published on medRxiv.org on February 11, under the title “Increasing viral transmission paradoxically reduces progression rates to severe COVID-19 during endemic transition.” This research was funded by the Institute of Basic Science, the Korea Health Industry Development Institute, and the National Research Foundation of Korea. -PublicationHyukpyo Hong, Ji Yun Noh, Hyojung Lee, Sunhwa Choi, Boseung Choi, Jae Kyung Kim, Eui-Cheol Shin, “Increasing viral transmission paradoxically reduces progression rates to severe COVID-19 during endemic transition,” medRxiv, February 9, 2022 (doi.org/10.1101/2022.02.09.22270633) -ProfileProfessor Jae Kyung KimDepartment of Mathematical SciencesKAIST Professor Eui-Cheol ShinGraduate School of Medical Science and EngineeringKAIST
Research Finds Digital Music Streaming Consumption Dropped as a Result of Covid-19 and Lockdowns
Decline in human mobility has stunning consequences for content streaming The Covid-19 pandemic and lockdowns significantly reduced the consumption of audio music streaming in many countries as people turned to video platforms. On average, audio music consumption decreased by 12.5% after the World Health Organization’s (WHO) pandemic declaration in March 2020. Music streaming services were an unlikely area hit hard by the Covid-19 pandemic. New research in Marketing Science found that the drop in people’s mobility during the pandemic significantly reduced the consumption of audio music streaming. Instead, people turned more to video platforms. “On average, audio music consumption decreased by more than 12% after the World Health Organization’s (WHO) pandemic declaration on March 11, 2020. As a result, during the pandemic, Spotify lost 838 million dollars of revenue in the first three quarters of 2020,” said Jaeung Sim, a PhD candidate in management engineering at KAIST and one of the authors of the research study on this phenomenon. “Our results showed that human mobility plays a much larger role in the audio consumption of music than previously thought.” The study, “Frontiers: Virus Shook the Streaming Star: Estimating the Covid-19 Impact on Music Consumption,” conducted by Sim and Professor Daegon Cho of KAIST, Youngdeok Hwang of City University of New York, and Rahul Telang of Carnegie Mellon University, looked at online music streaming data for top songs for two years in 60 countries, as well as Covid-19 cases, lockdown statistics, and daily mobility data, to determine the nature of the changes. The study showed how the pandemic adversely impacted music streaming services despite the common expectation that the pandemic would universally benefit online medias platforms. This implies that the substantially changing media consumption environment can place streaming music in fiercer competition with other media forms that offer more dynamic and vivid experiences to consumers. The researchers found that music consumption through video platforms was positively associated with the severity of Covid-19, lockdown policies, and time spent at home. -PublicationJaeung Sim, Daegon Cho, Youngdeok Hwang, and Rahul Telang,“Frontiers: Virus Shook the Streaming Star: Estimating the Covid-19 Impact on Music Consumption,” November 30 in Marketing Science online (doi.org/10.1287/mksc.2021.1321) -Profile Professor Daegon ChoGraduate School of Information and Media ManagementCollege of BusinessKAIST
MCM Utilized at Residential Treatment Center in Gyeonggi
The Mobile Clinic Module (MCM) developed by the KAIST Action for Respiratory Epidemics was installed at special residential treatment center in Gyeonggi Province on September 13. The MCM is an isolate negative pressure unit fitted with high-quality medical equipment, developed by Professor Taek-Jin Nam of the Department of Industrial Design under the KAIST New Deal R&D Initiative. This is also a part of the Korean Disease Control Package Development Project from last July. In January, a ward with four beds for critical care was installed at the Korea Institute for Radiological & Medical Sciences in Seoul for a trial operation, and two mild cases were treated there. It was also implemented as an isolated negative pressure unit in the Daejeon Konyang University Hospital emergency room in June, and has treated 138 cases since. The special residential treatment center installed in the Gyeonggi Provincial Academy gymnasium, which consists of 28 beds in 14 rooms (double occupancy) and a multipurpose room (for X-rays and treatment), is to remain open through October 10. Unlike existing treatment centers that have quarantined COVID-19 patients for two weeks, the Gyeonggi MCM will act as a self-treatment-associated short-term treatment center. While in self-treatment, patients showing symptoms requiring special attention will be moved to the MCM, followed by short-term hospitalization of 1-3 days for observation before further measures are taken. Patients can be treated using the MCM’s own treatment capacities, including in-person and oxygen treatment, X-rays, and IVs. There are individual bathrooms in each room, and the pressure, ventilation, and the automatic opening and closing of the entrance can be centrally monitored and controlled. Patients showing symptoms during treatment will be moved to a specially designated hospital for critical care, and will return to the self-treatment center if no further abnormalities are reported. The Gyeonggi Provincial Medical Center’s Ansung Hospital will take charge of operating the special treatment center. Each day, one or two doctors, three nurses, two nursing assistants, one administrative staff member, two or three disinfection specialists, and a medical imaging engineer will work in three shifts. There will also be about 20 additional specially designated staff members including KAIST researchers, firefighters, and police officers. The MCM was internationally recognized as an excellent medical facility not only for its functionality, economic feasibility, and utility, but also for its unique design and aesthetics. It received two Best of Best awards at the Red Dot Award in product design and Communication Design in user interface. By running this special treatment center, KAIST will conduct research on how to build an optimized model for efficient negative pressure medical units. This research is expected to lead to advances in waste water treatment systems, mobile bathrooms optimized for infectious cases, and MCM user interfaces for electronic devices, etc. Professor Taek-Jin Nam, the general director of the project and design, said “if there is a gymnasium available, we can convert it into a special treatment center fitted with a waste water treatment system, and pressure equipment in two weeks even without additional infrastructure.” The head of the KAIST New Deal R&D Initiative Choongsik Bae said, “our MCM research started in July of last year, and in just over a year, it has become a successful and innovative case that has undergone trials and become commercialized in a short period of time.” He added, “In response to COVID-19, KAIST is conducting research and empirical studies, not just in relation to the MCM, but in other areas of disease control as well.” Based on the excellent disease control technologies developed by KAIST research teams, the KAIST Action for Respiratory Epidemics is conducting technology transfers and industrialization, and is developing a Korean disease control package model
Krafton Matches Alumni Donations to Raise 11 Billion KRW for SW Developers
Alumni donations from the School of Computing, including Baemin and Devsisters, continue to grow Alumni from the KAIST School of Computing who are current and former developers at the leading game company Krafton, established by KAIST alumna Byung-Gyu Chang, made an agreement to help raise 11 billion KRW during a ceremony on June 4. The funds raised in the matching grant will be used to nurture software developers. Krafton Chairman Chang donated 10 billion won last January. His donation inspired other alumni working at Krafton as well as its former developers. Eleven KAIST alumni raised 5.5 billion KRW in two months and discussed the matching grant idea with Chairman Chang. The Krafton matching grant ceremony was attended by President Kwang Hyung Lee, Provost and Executive Vice President Seung Seob Lee, Vice President for Research Sang Yup Lee, Head of the School of Computing Sukyoung Ryu, Krafton Chairman Byung-gyu Chang, and KAIST alumnus from Krafton Seung-woo Shin. Other alumni donors including Krafton CEO Changhan Kim joined the ceremony online. Krafton CEO Changhan Kim said, “Just as our alma mater played an important role in growing our company, we hope that our donation could help support good developers. This will not only help our company, but advance our industry.” KAIST and Krafton also signed a business agreement to foster competitive developers. Krafton said it plans to continue giving back to society through the matching grant program. Head of the School of Computing Sukyoung Ryu thanked Chairman Chang and alumni who took part in the fund raising, saying, “To take the lead in rapidly changing computer technology, we desperately need more top students, faculty members, and facilities. We need more resources and infrastructure for interdisciplinary research.” The School of Computing has seen significant growth recently. Its number of undergraduate students has increased from 450 in 2016 to more than 900 in 2021. With this donation, the school will expand its current buildings to provide diverse educational and mentoring programs in more spacious facilities. Seung-woo Shin (Class of ’92), who joined Krafton’s matching grant, said, “I have always been thankful for the people I met and what I learned at KAIST. I was moved by the idea of giving back to the school.” Seong-jung Ryu (Class of ’97) said, “This donation reminded me of the good times I had back then. I thought it was crucial that the department’s facilities be extended, so I naturally wanted to take part.” Alumni donations, especially from the School of Computing, have also continued to grow more recently. Woowa Brothers Corp. CEO Beom-Jun Kim, the developer of the meal delivery app ‘Baemin’ donated 100 million KRW in April. Baemin became the most used app in the country during the COVID-19 pandemic. He explained, “I have been thinking about ways to give something to the next generation, rather than ‘paying back’ those who helped me in the past.” Encouraged by Baemin’s donation, alumni couple Ha-Yeon Seo and Dong-Hun Hahn from the School of Computing and eleven alumni engineers working at Devsisters Corp. also followed suit.
Ultrafast, on-Chip PCR Could Speed Up Diagnoses during Pandemics
A rapid point-of-care diagnostic plasmofluidic chip can deliver result in only 8 minutes Reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) has been the gold standard for diagnosis during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the PCR portion of the test requires bulky, expensive machines and takes about an hour to complete, making it difficult to quickly diagnose someone at a testing site. Now, researchers at KAIST have developed a plasmofluidic chip that can perform PCR in only about 8 minutes, which could speed up diagnoses during current and future pandemics. The rapid diagnosis of COVID-19 and other highly contagious viral diseases is important for timely medical care, quarantining and contact tracing. Currently, RT-PCR uses enzymes to reverse transcribe tiny amounts of viral RNA to DNA, and then amplifies the DNA so that it can be detected by a fluorescent probe. It is the most sensitive and reliable diagnostic method. But because the PCR portion of the test requires 30-40 cycles of heating and cooling in special machines, it takes about an hour to perform, and samples must typically be sent away to a lab, meaning that a patient usually has to wait a day or two to receive their diagnosis. Professor Ki-Hun Jeong at the Department of Bio and Brain Engineering and his colleagues wanted to develop a plasmofluidic PCR chip that could quickly heat and cool miniscule volumes of liquids, allowing accurate point-of-care diagnoses in a fraction of the time. The research was reported in ACS Nano on May 19. The researchers devised a postage stamp-sized polydimethylsiloxane chip with a microchamber array for the PCR reactions. When a drop of a sample is added to the chip, a vacuum pulls the liquid into the microchambers, which are positioned above glass nanopillars with gold nanoislands. Any microbubbles, which could interfere with the PCR reaction, diffuse out through an air-permeable wall. When a white LED is turned on beneath the chip, the gold nanoislands on the nanopillars quickly convert light to heat, and then rapidly cool when the light is switched off. The researchers tested the device on a piece of DNA containing a SARS-CoV-2 gene, accomplishing 40 heating and cooling cycles and fluorescence detection in only 5 minutes, with an additional 3 minutes for sample loading. The amplification efficiency was 91%, whereas a comparable conventional PCR process has an efficiency of 98%. With the reverse transcriptase step added prior to sample loading, the entire testing time with the new method could take 10-13 minutes, as opposed to about an hour for typical RT-PCR testing. The new device could provide many opportunities for rapid point-of-care diagnostics during a pandemic, the researchers say. -Publication Ultrafast and Real-Time Nanoplasmonic On-Chip Polymerase Chain Reaction for Rapid and Quantitative Molecular Diagnostics ACS Nano (https://doi.org/10.1021/acsnano.1c02154) -Professor Ki-Hun Jeong Biophotonics Laboratory https://biophotonics.kaist.ac.kr/ Department of Bio and Brain Engineeinrg KAIST
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)
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.
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
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