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KAIST Researchers Receive Awards at the 13th Asian Congress on Biotechnology
(From left: Seon Young Park, Dr. So Young Choi, and Yoojin Choi) Researchers in the laboratory of KAIST Distinguished Professor Sang Yup Lee from the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering swept awards at the 13th Asian Congress on Biotechnology held in Thailand last month. The conference awarded a total of eight prizes in the areas of best research and best poster presentation. This is an exceptional case in which members of one research team received almost half of the awards at an international conference. Dr. So Young Choi received the Best Research Award, while Ph.D. candidates Yoojin Choi and Seon Young Park each received the Best Poster Presentation Award at the conference held in Khon Kaen, Thailand from July 23 to 27. The Asian Congress on Biotechnology is an international conference in which scientists and industry experts in Asia and from around the world gather to present recent research findings in the field of biotechnology. At the conference, around 400 researchers in biotechnology from 25 countries, including Korea, gathered to present and discuss various research findings under the theme of “Bioinnovation and Bioeconomy.” Distinguished Professor Sang Yup Lee attended the conference to give the opening plenary lecture on the topic of ‘Systems Strategies in Biotechnology.’ Professor Lee announced, “I have attended international conferences with students for the last 20 years, but this is the first in which my team received three awards at an international conference that only honors a total of eight awards, three for Best Research and five for Best Presentation.” Dr. Choi presented research results on poly (lactate-co-glycolate) (PLGA) synthesis through a biological method using micro-organisms and received the Best Research Award. PLGA is a random copolymer of DL-lactic and glycolic acids and is a biopolymer widely used for biomedical applications. PLGA is biodegradable, biocompatible, and nontoxic, and thus has been approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for its use in implants, drug delivery, and sutures. Dr. Choi’s research was deemed to be innovative for synthesizing PLGA from glucose and xylose in cells through metabolic engineering of E.Coli. Dr. Choi received her Ph.D. under the supervision of Distinguished Professor Lee this February and is currently conducting post-doc research. Ph.D. candidate Choi presented her research on the use of recombinant E.Coli for the biological synthesis of various nanoparticles and received the Best Poster Presentation award. Choi used recombinant E.Coli-expressing proteins and peptides that adsorb to heavy metals to biologically synthesize diverse metal nanoparticles such as single-nanoparticle including gold and silver, quantum dots, and magnetic nanoparticles for the first time. The synthesized nanoparticles can be used in the fields of bio-imaging, diagnosis, environment, and energy. Ph.D. candidate Park, who also received the Best Poster Presentation award, synthesized and increased production of astanxanthin, a strong antioxidant found in nature, in E.Coli using metabolic engineering. Astanxanthin is a carotenoid pigment found in salmon and shrimp that widely used in health products and cosmetics.
KAIST to Host the 2017 AI World Cup in November
KAIST, the birthplace of the Robot World Cup in 1996, now presents a new technology matchup, the AI World Cup this November, which will be held at KAIST. The event is being organized by the Machine Intelligence and Robotics Multi-Sponsored Research and Education Platform (MIR-MSREP) of KAIST. The online, simulated AI soccer game, based on rolling updates, will be a draw for avid online gamers and tech-savvy university students from around the nation. The tournament is comprised of three events: ▲A 5 on 5 AI soccer match to be played after self-learning using AI technology in an online simulation environment ▲Commentary in which online soccer videos are analyzed and commented on, and ▲Game reporters who will write articles on online soccer event results. The participants will undergo a month-long online practice period in October and compete in preliminary matches from November 1 through 24. The top teams that scored the highest accumulated points will compete in the finals on December 1. In the finals, each team’s AI technology implementation method will be evaluated to select the final winning team. To ensure a successful event, KAIST will host a briefing session for participants on July 28. Technological prowess and early exposure to AI accumulated at KAIST led to the launching of this tournament. Professor Jong-Hwan Kim, the chair of the Organizing Committee of the AI World Cup, hosted the first ever Robot World Cup back in 1996. His concept has now evolved into the emerging technology of AI and the members of the Organizing Committee encompass the professors from the various departments of electrical engineering, computing, industrial and systems engineering, aerospace engineering, civil and environmental engineering, and the graduate schools of Green Transportation, Cultural Technology, and Science and Technology Policy. In particular, ongoing convergence research initiatives incorporating AI into a wide arrays of disciplines such as bio, nano, and IT, played a crucial role for making this AI World Cup happen. Professor Kim said, “The winner of this year’s competition will be awarded a certificate and a small gift. In 2018, we aim to expand the event to an international scale by allowing international teams.” Any undergraduate or graduate student in Korea can apply to participate in the ‘AI World Cup 2017’. KAIST will host a public trial event during the ‘Open KAIST’ event period to be held November 2-3 to help participating students understand the event better. ‘Open KAIST’ allows the general public to personally visit and experience what goes on in engineering departments and laboratories on the KAIST main campus. It is hosted by the College of Engineering every two years and is the largest event hosted by KAIST. To participate in the ‘AI World Cup 2017,’ teams consisting of Korean undergraduates or graduate students can fill out application forms and submit them by September 30 on http://mir.kaist.ac.kr .
Cooperative Tumor Cell Membrane-Targeted Phototherapy
A KAIST research team led by Professor Ji-Ho Park in the Bio and Brain Engineering Department at KAIST developed a technology for the effective treatment of cancer by delivering synthetic receptors throughout tumor tissue. The study, led by Ph.D. candidate Heegon Kim, was published online in Nature Communications on June 19. Cancer targeted therapy generally refers to therapy targeting specific molecules that are involved in the growth and generation of cancer. The targeted delivery of therapeutics using targeting agents such as antibodies or nanomaterials has improved the precision and safety of cancer therapy. However, the paucity and heterogeneity of identified molecular targets within tumors have resulted in poor and uneven distribution of targeted agents, thus compromising treatment outcomes. To solve this problem, the team constructed a cooperative targeting system in which synthetic and biological nanocomponents participate together in the tumor cell membrane-selective localization of synthetic receptors to amplify the subsequent targeting of therapeutics. Here, synthetic and biological nanocomponents refer to liposomes and extracellular vesicles, respectively. The synthetic receptors are first delivered selectively to tumor cell membranes in the perivascular region using liposomes. By hitchhiking with extracellular vesicles secreted by the cells, the synthetic receptors are transferred to neighboring cells and further spread throughout the tumor tissues where the molecular targets are limited. Hitchhiking extracellular vesicles for delivery of synthetic receptors was possible since extracellular vesicles, such as exosomes, mediate intercellular communications by transferring various biological components such as lipids, cytosolic proteins, and RNA through a membrane fusion process. They also play a supportive role in promoting tumor progression in that tumor-derived extracellular vesicles deliver oncogenic signals to normal host cells. The team showed that this tumor cell membrane-targeted delivery of synthetic receptors led to a uniform distribution of synthetic receptors throughout a tumor and subsequently led to enhanced phototherapeutic efficacy of the targeted photosensitizer. Professor Park said, “The cooperative tumor targeting system is expected to be applied in treating various diseases that are hard to target.” The research was funded by the Basic Science Research Program through the National Research Foundation funded by the Ministry of Science, ICT & Future Planning, and the National R&D Program for Cancer Control funded by the Ministry for Health and Welfare. (Ph.D. candidates Hee Gon Kim (left) and Chanhee Oh) Figure 1. A schematic of a cooperative tumor targeting system via delivery of synthetic receptors. Figure 2. A confocal microscopic image of a tumor section after cooperative targeting by synthetic receptor delivery. Green and magenta represent vessels and therapeutic agents inside a tumor respectively.
Reform of Universities Key in the Wake of the 4th Industrial Revolution
(President Shin makes a keynote speech at the Times Higher Education Research Excellence Summit held in Taiwan on July 4.) KAIST President Sung-Chul Shin stressed that innovations in education, research, and technology commercialization of universities are critical for responding to the transformations that the Fourth Industrial Revolution will bring about. In his keynote speech at the Times Higher Education Research Excellence Summit held in Taiwan on July 4, he cited connectivity, superintelligence, and convergence in science and technology as three components the Fourth Industrial Revolution will pierce, saying the speed and breadth of the transformation will be beyond our imagination. He also presented megatrends in science and technology in the years to come and how KAIST is addressing the challenges and opportunities. “It is imperative to foster creative young talents fluent in convergence, collaboration, and communication skills in the new era. To this end, we need to focus on whole brain education by enhancing basic education in science and engineering plus humanities and social studies,” he stressed. He also presented a Non-Departmental Education Track, which KAIST plans to implement from next semester. The track, designed to prepare students for the new industrial era, will focus on whole brain education including entrepreneurship and leadership education during the undergraduate period. He also emphasized an effective new teaching methodology. “We need to develop various new teaching methods. The paradigm should shift from lecturer-centered to student-centered. KAIST is revising our curriculum to facilitate team-based, project-based learning and flipped learning,” he explained. President Shin also pointed out that the educational goals for the next generation should be to sustain the value of people’s own thoughtfulness, wisdom, emotion, and caring against the advent of a new tribe of AI, dubbed Robo Sapiens. “Those traits add undeniable educational value that we should continue to pursue even in the era of Robo Sapiens,” he added. As for research innovation, he emphasized inter- and multi-disciplinary collaborative research. “Especially, in addressing pressing global issues and big science, international collaboration will be very effective and crucial,” he said. At the summit, convergence research projects currently underway at KAIST using emerging technologies such as the smart mobile healthcare project, Dr, M; the humanoid robot, HUBO; and AI drone swarms drew lots of attention from the participants, even receiving proposals to join the projects as collaborators. In the new era, according to Shin, technology commercialization at universities will emerge as a hub of R&DB. Citing that KAIST has long been a draw for startups, he noted that KAIST has also set a high value on entrepreneurship education including social entrepreneurship and startups. He continued, “The Korean government is making every effort to harness the challenges and opportunities of the Fourth Industrial Revolution by creating a new economic growth engine. For the success of the government initiative, universities should also respond to make innovations commensurate with the changing needs and challenges. KAIST will take the lead in this new initiative for making a new future.”
Mutations Unveiled that Predispose Lung Cancer Cells to Refractory Histologic Transformation
Cancer pedigree analysis reveals the mutations in RB1 and TP53 genes play a key role in treatment-resistant, cancer cell-type transformation during EGFR inhibitor therapy for lung cancers. Research led by Korean medical scientists has discovered that a specific type of drug resistance mechanism to EGFR inhibitor therapy in lung cancer is predisposed by mutations in two canonical cancer-related genes: RB1 and TP53. Published in Journal of Clinical Oncology on May 12, the study also found those mutations can be detectable in patients' tumors at the point of clinical diagnosis. Therefore, it can be used as strong markers in clinic for predicting poor outcome for the targeted treatment for lung adenocarcinoma. Lung adenocarcinoma is the most common type of lung cancer, and about 15% of patients in Western countries and 50% of patients in Asian countries have mutations in the EGFR gene, which is critical for the development of lung cancer. Patients with lung adenocarcinoma harboring the EGFR mutation show favorable responses to EGFR inhibitors such as erlotinib (Tarceva) or gefitinib (Iressa), but ultimately relapse with drug-resistant tumors. Since the initial report in 2006, it has been known that in about 5~15% of patients, the lung adenocarcinoma cells undergo a mysterious transformation into a very different cancer cell type called “small cell lung cancer,” a much more aggressive lung cancer subtype, common in cigarette smokers. To find out the genetic basis of this process, the researchers compared the genome sequences of multiple cancer tissues acquired during the treatment courses of patients whose tumors underwent small-cell transformation. They reconstructed the cancer cell pedigree by comparing mutations between cancer tissues, and identified that RB1 and TP53 genes are completely inactivated by mutations already in their lung adenocarcinoma tissues. "We tried to compare the somatic mutational profile of pre-EGFR inhibitor treatment lung adenocarcinomas and post-treatment small cell carcinomas and to reconstruct the pedigrees of the cancer evolution in each patient. Strikingly, both copies of RB1 and TP53 genes were already inactivated at the stage of lung adenocarcinomas in all sequenced cases," said Dr. Jake June-Koo Lee, the first author from KAIST. They further pursued the clinical implications of RB1 and TP53 inactivation by investigating 75 EGFR-mutated lung adenocarcinoma tissues from patients who received EGFR inhibitor therapy, including patients with small-cell transformation. In this analysis, the lung adenocarcinomas with a complete inactivation of both RB1 and TP53 genes tended to have a 43-times greater risk of transformation into small cell lung cancer during their EGFR inhibitor treatment courses. Dr. Young Seok Ju, the co-last author from KAIST, explained, "This study shows the power of entire genome analyses to better understand the mechanisms underlying mysterious phenomenon encountered in clinic. Upon accurate bioinformatics, we are finding cancer-specific somatic mutations from the whole-genomes of patients’ cancer cells. These mutations allow us to track the evolution of cancer cells throughout the extraordinary clinical course of a special set of lung cancers." The complete inactivation of both RB1 and TP53 tumor suppressor genes is found in a minor (<10%) subset of lung adenocarcinoma. This study suggests that the clinical course against targeted therapy is endogenously different for the cancers in the subgroup, and specific drug-resistance mechanisms are predisposed by the two genetic mutations. Indeed, RB1 and TP53 double inactivation is a genetic hallmark of primary small cell lung cancer, observed in nearly all cases. "We are actively investigating patient tumor tissues to develop optimal surveillance plans and treatment options for patients with lung adenocarcinomas more prone to small-cell transformation," said Dr. Tae Min Kim, the co-last author from Seoul National University Hospital. The researchers are implementing their findings into lung cancer clinics by screening the RB1 and TP53 mutational status in lung adenocarcinoma patients receiving EGFR inhibitor treatment, and following their treatment courses to develop a treatment strategy for those patients. This research (doi.org/10.1200/JCO.2016.71.9096) was funded by the National Research Foundation of Korea (NRF-2013H1A2A1032691 to J.-K.L., NRF-2014R1A2A2A05003665 to Y.T.K.); Korea Institute of Science and Technology Information (K-16-L03-C02-S02 to J.L.); and the Korea Health Technology R&D Project through the Korea Health Industry Development Institute, which was funded by the Ministry of Health and Welfare (HI14C1234 to T.M.K., HI16C2387 to Y.S.J.) Figure. Phylogeny analysis of serially-acquired tumors A. Phylogeny trees of sequenced cases (LC1−LC4) are reconstructed from the WGS data. Conceptual illustrations are depicted with grey color. Circles indicate major clones of the tumors. The length of each branch is proportional to the number of mutations that occurred in the branch. Mutations of cancer-related genes in each branch are indicated with arrows. The time points of relevant treatments are summarized below the trees. B. Mutations of RB1 and TP53 in two early LADCs (LC1b and LC4a) are visualized using Integrative Genomics Viewer (left panel). Allele-specific copy number analysis shows loss of heterozygosity of chromosomes 13 and 17 in both early LADCs and EGFR TKI-resistant SCLCs (right panel). C. Clonal evolution of LC1 is described with clinical history and tumor volumes. The horizontal axis represents the time from the diagnosis (0), and the vertical axis indicates the volume of tumors calculated from the computed tomography images. Abbreviations: LADC, lung adenocarcinoma; SCLC, small cell lung cancer
Bio-based p-Xylene Oxidation into Terephthalic Acid by Engineered E.coli
KAIST researchers have established an efficient biocatalytic system to produce terephthalic acid (TPA) from p-xylene (pX). It will allow this industrially important bulk chemical to be made available in a more environmentally-friendly manner. The research team developed metabolically engineered Escherichia coli (E.coli) to biologically transform pX into TPA, a chemical necessary in the manufacturing of polyethylene terephthalate (PET). This biocatalysis system represents a greener and more efficient alternative to the traditional chemical methods for TPA production. This research, headed by Distinguished Professor Sang Yup Lee, was published in Nature Communications on May 31. The research team utilized a metabolic engineering and synthetic biology approach to develop a recombinant microorganism that can oxidize pX into TPA using microbial fermentation. TPA is a globally important chemical commodity for manufacturing PET. It can be applied to manufacture plastic bottles, clothing fibers, films, and many other products. Currently, TPA is produced from pX oxidation through an industrially well-known chemical process (with a typical TPA yield of over 95 mol%), which shows, however, such drawbacks as intensive energy requirements at high temperatures and pressure, usage of heavy metal catalysts, and the unavoidable byproduct formation of 4-carboxybenzaldehyde. The research team designed and constructed a synthetic metabolic pathway by incorporating the upper xylene degradation pathway of Pseudomonas putida F1 and the lower p-toluene sulfonate pathway of Comamonas testosteroni T-2, which successfully produced TPA from pX in small-scale cultures, with the formation of p-toluate (pTA) as the major byproduct. The team further optimized the pathway gene expression levels by using a synthetic biology toolkit, which gave the final engineered E. coli strain showing increased TPA production and the complete elimination of the byproduct. Using this best-performing strain, the team designed an elegant two-phase (aqueous/organic) fermentation system for TPA production on a larger scale, where pX was supplied in the organic phase. Through a number of optimization steps, the team ultimately achieved production of 13.3 g TPA from 8.8 g pX, which represented an extraordinary yield of 97 mol%. The team has developed a microbial biotechnology application which is reportedly the first successful example of the bio-based production of TPA from pX by the microbial fermentation of engineered E. coli. This bio-based TPA technology presents several advantages such as ambient reaction temperature and pressure, no use of heavy metals or other toxic chemicals, the removable of byproduct formation, and it is 100% environmentally compatible. Professor Lee said, “We presented promising biotechnology for producing large amounts of the commodity chemical TPA, which is used for PET manufacturing, through metabolically engineered gut bacterium. Our research is meaningful in that it demonstrates the feasibility of the biotechnological production of bulk chemicals, and if reproducible when up-scaled, it will represent a breakthrough in hydrocarbon bioconversions.” Ph.D. candidate Zi Wei Luo is the first author of this research (DOI:10.1038/ncomms15689).The research was supported by the Intelligent Synthetic Biology Center through the Global Frontier Project (2011-0031963) of the Ministry of Science, ICT & Future Planning through the National Research Foundation of Korea. Figure: Biotransformation of pX into TPA by engineered E. coli. This schematic diagram shows the overall conceptualization of how metabolically engineered E. coli produced TPA from pX. The engineered E. coli was developed through reconstituting a synthetic metabolic pathway for pX conversion to TPA and optimized for increased TPA yield and byproduct elimination. Two-phase partitioning fermentation system was developed for demonstrating the feasibility of large-scale production of TPA from pX using the engineered E. coli strains, where pX was supplied in the organic phase and TPA was produced in the aqueous phase.
Observation of the Phase Transition of Liquid Crystal Defects
KAIST researchers observed the phase transition of topological defects formed by liquid crystal (LC) materials for the first time. The phase transition of topological defects, which was also the theme of the Nobel Prize for Physics in 2016, can be difficult to understand for a layperson but it needs to be studied to understand the mysteries of the universe or the underlying physics of skyrmions, which have intrinsic topological defects. If the galaxy is taken as an example in the universe, it is difficult to observe the topological defects because the system is too large to observe some changes over a limited period of time. In the case of defect structures formed by LC molecules, they are not only a suitable size to observe with an optical microscope, but also the time period in which the phase transition of a defect occurring can be directly observed over a few seconds, which can be extended to a few minutes. The defect structures formed by LC material have radial, circular, or spiral shapes centering on a singularity (defect core), like the singularity that was already introduced in the famous movie "Interstellar,” which is the center point of black hole. In general, LC materials are mainly used in liquid crystal displays (LCDs) and optical sensors because it is easy to control their specific orientation and they have fast response characteristics and huge anisotropic optical properties. It is advantageous in terms of the performance of LCDs that the defects of the LC materials are minimized. The research team led by Professor Dong Ki Yoon in the Graduate School of Nanoscience and Technology did not simply minimize such defects but actively tried to use the LC defects as building blocks to make micro- and nanostructures for the patterning applications. During these efforts, they found the way to directly study the phase transition of topological defects under in-situ conditions. Considering the LC material from the viewpoint of a device like a LCD, robustness is important. Therefore, the LC material is injected through the capillary phenomenon between a rigid two-glass plate and the orientation of the LCs can be followed by the surface anchoring condition of the glass substrate. However, in this conventional case, it is difficult to observe the phase transition of the LC defect due to this strong surface anchoring force induced by the solid substrate. In order to solve this problem, the research team designed a platform, in which the movement of the LC molecules was not restricted, by forming a thin film of LC material on water, which is like oil floating on water. For this, a droplet of LC material was dripped onto water and spread to form a thin film. The topological defects formed under this circumstance could show the thermal phase transition when the temperature was changed. In addition, this approach can trace back the morphology of the original defect structure from the sequential changes during the temperature changes, which can give hints to the study of the formation of topological defects in the cosmos or skyrmions. Prof. Yoon said, “The study of LC crystal defects itself has been extensively studied by physicists and mathematicians for about 100 years. However, this is the first time that we have observed the phase transition of LC defects directly.” He also added, "Korea is leading in the LCD industry, but our basic research on LCs is not at the world's research level." The first author of this study is Dr. Min-Jun Gimand supported by a grant from the National Research Foundation (NRF) and funded by the Korean Government (MSIP). The research result was published on May 30, 2017 in Nature Communications. Figure 1. The phase transition of the LC topological defect on cooling. Figure 2. Polarizing optical microscopy images of topological defects depending on the strength of the director field. (a,b,e) Convergent director field arrangements of LC molecules and corresponding schematic images; (c,d,f) Divergent director field arrangements of LC molecules and corresponding schematic images.
Extreme Materials for Fusion with Metal Cocktail
The research team under Professor Ryu Ho-jin of the Department of Nuclear and Quantum Engineering has developed a new material for facing fusion plasma environments using metal powder mixing technology. This technology is expected to extend the range of materials that can be designed for use in extreme environments such as in fusion power generators. The durability of the tokamak vessel, which holds high-temperature plasma, is very important to create fusion power reactors, which are expected to be a future energy source. Currently, high-melting-point metals, such as tungsten, are considered plasma-facing materials to protect the tokamak vessel. However, high-energy thermal shocks, plasma ions, and neutrons are fatal to the plasma-facing material during high temperature fusion plasma operation. Therefore, it is necessary to develop new high-performance materials. The ITER project, in which seven countries including the United States, the EU, and Korea participate jointly, is constructing a nuclear fusion experimental reactor in France with the goal of achieving the first plasma in 2025 and deuterium-tritium fusion operation in 2035. In Korea, the KSTAR tokamak at the National Fusion Research Institute has succeeded in maintaining high-performance plasma for 70 seconds. Researchers in Europe, the United States, and China, who are leading the research on fusion plasma-facing materials, are studying the improvement of physical properties by adding a small amount of metal elements to tungsten. However, Professor Ryu’s team reported that by mixing various metals’ powders, including tungsten, they have succeeded in producing a new material that has twice the hardness and strength of tungsten. The difference in the atomic sizes of the well-mixed elements in the alloy is very significant because it makes it difficult to deform the alloy. The team will continue its research to find alloying compositions that optimize mechanical properties as well as thermal conductivity, plasma interactions, neutron irradiation embrittlement, tritium absorption, and high-temperature oxidation properties. Professor Ryu said, "Fusion plasma-facing materials are exposed to extreme environments and no metal is capable of withstanding thermal shock, plasma, and neutron damage simultaneously. As a result of this research, attempts to develop complex metallic materials for nuclear fusion and nuclear power are expected to become more active around the world. " Ph.D. candidate Owais Ahmed Waseem is the first author of this project. The research is supported by the Ministry of Science, ICT and Future Planning, the Korea Research Foundation's Fusion Basic Research project, and the Engineering Research Center. The results were published in 'Scientific Report' on May 16. Figure 1. Tungsten-based high strengh alloy sample Figure 2. Fusion plasma facing material development by powder processing of refractory elements
Total Synthesis of Flueggenine C via an Accelerated Intermolecular Rauhut-Currier Reaction
The first total synthesis of dimeric securinega alkaloid (-)-flueggenine C was completed via an accelerated intermolecular Rauhut–Currier (RC) reaction. The research team led by Professor Sunkyu Han in the Department of Chemistry succeeded in synthesizing the natural product by reinventing the conventional RC reaction. The total synthesis of natural products refers to the process of synthesizing secondary metabolites isolated from living organisms in the laboratory through a series of chemical reactions. Each stage of chemical reaction needs to be successful to produce the final target molecule, and thus the process requires high levels of patience and creativity. For that reason, the researchers working on natural products total synthesis are often called “molecular artists”. Despite numerous reports on the total synthesis of monomeric securinegas, the synthesis of dimeric securinegas, whose monomeric units are connected by a putative enzymatic RC reaction, has not been reported to date. The team used a Rauhut-Currier (RC) reaction, a carboncarbon bond forming a reaction between two Michael acceptors first reported by Rauhut and Currier in 1963, to successfully synthesize a dimeric natural product, flueggenine C. This new work featured the first application of an intermolecular RC reaction in total synthesis. The conventional intermolecular RC reaction was driven non-selectively by a toxic nucleophilic catalyst at a high temperature of over 150°C and a highly concentrated reaction mixture, and thus has never been applied to natural products total synthesis. To overcome this long-standing problem, the research team placed a nucleophilic moiety at the γ-position of the enone derivative. As a result, the RC reaction could be induced by the simple addition of a base at ambient temperature and dilute solution, without the need of a nucleophilic catalyst. Using this newly discovered reactivity, the team successfully synthesized the natural product (-)-flueggenine C from commercially available amino acid derivative in 12 steps. Professor Han said, “Our key finding regarding the remarkably improved reactivity and selectivity of the intermolecular RC reaction will serve as a significant stepping stone in allowing this reaction to be considered a practical and reliable chemical tool with broad applicability in natural products, pharmaceuticals, and materials syntheses. ” This research was led by Ph.D. candidate Sangbin Jeon and was published in The Journal of the American Chemical Society (JACS) on May 10. This research was funded by KAIST start-up funds, HRHR (High-Risk High-Return), RED&B (Research, Education, Development & Business) projects, the National Research Foundation of Korea, and the Institute for Basic Science. (Figure 1: Representative dimeric/oligomeric securinega alkaloids) (Figure 2: Our reinvented Rauhut-Currier reaction) (Figure 3: Total Synthesis of (-)-flueggenine C)
2017 KAIST Research Day Honors Professor Hoon Sohn
The 2017 KAIST Research Day recognized Professor Hoon Sohn of the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering as Research Grand Prize Awardee in addition to the 10 most distinguished research achievements of the past year. The Research Grand Prize recognizes the professor whose comprehensive research performance evaluation indicator is the highest over the past five years. The indicator combines the factors of the number of research contracts, IPR, royalty income, as well as research overhead cost inclusion. During the ceremony, which was held on May 23, Professor Jun-Ho Oh of the Department of Mechanical Engineering and Professor Sang Yup Lee of the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering also won the Best Research Award. The two professors had the best scores when evaluating their research performance for one-year periods. Meanwhile, the Research Innovation Award went to Professor YongKeun Park of the Department of Physics. The Research Innovation Award scores the factors of foreign patent registration, contracts of technological transfer and income from technology fees, technology consultations, and startups and selected Professor Park as the top winner. Professors Yong Hee Lee of the Department of Physics and Jonghwa Shin of the Department of Material Science won the Convergence Research Award. The Convergence Research Award recognizes the most outstanding research team who created innovative research results for a year. After the ceremony, President Chen Shiyi of the Southern University of Science and Technology gave a distinguished lecture on the “Global & Entrepreneurial Universities for the Age of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.” the Research Day ceremony, KAIST also presented the ten most distinguished research achievements made by KAIST professors during the last year as follows (Click): ▲ Commercialization of 3D Holographic Microscopy by Professor YongKeun Park of the Department of Physics ▲ Designer Proteins with Chemical Modifications by Professor Hee-Sung Park of the Department of Chemistry ▲ Lanthanum-Catalyzed Synthesis of Microporous 3D Graphene-Like Carbons in a Zeolite Template by Professor Ryong Ryoo of the Department of Chemistry ▲ Complete Prevention of Blood Loss by Self-Sealing Hemostatic Needles by Professor Haeshin Lee of the Department of Chemistry ▲ An Immunological Mechanism for the Contribution of Commensal Microbiota Against Herpes Simplex Virus Infection in Genital Mucosa by Heung Kyu Lee of the Graduate School of Medical Science and Engineering ▲ Development of a Pulse-Echo Laser Ultrasonic Propagation Imaging System by Professor Jung-Ryul Lee of the Department of Aerospace Engineering ▲ Bi-refractive Stereo Imaging for Single-Shot Depth Acquisition by Professor Min H. Kim of the School of Computing ▲ Development of Environment Friendly Geotechnical Construction Material Using Biopolymer by Professor Gye-Chun Cho of the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering ▲ Protein Delivery Via Engineered Exosomes by Professor Chulhee Choi of the Department of Bio and Brain Engineering ▲ Hot Electron Detection Under Catalytic Reactions by Professor Jeong Young Park of the Graduate School of EEWS. After the ceremony, President Chen Shiyi of the Southern University of Science and Technology gave a distinguished lecture on the “Global & Entrepreneurial Universities for the Age of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.” (Photo:President Shin poses with the 2017 KAIST Research Grand Prize Winner Professor Hoon Sohn on May 23.)
Processable High Internal Phase Pickering Emulsion Using Depletion Attraction
Professor Siyoung Choi’s research team from the KAIST Department of Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering used physical force to successfully produce a stable emulsion. Emulsions, commonly known as cosmetic products, refer to stably dispersed structures of oil droplets in water (or water droplets in oil). Pickering emulsions refer to emulsions stabilized using solid particles, instead of detergent. Traditionally, it is said that water and oil do not mix. Until recently, detergent was added to mix oil and water for dispersion. Emulsions have traditionally been produced using this technique and are currently used for products such as mayonnaise, sun block, and lotion. On the other hand, Pickering emulsions have been used after stabilization of chemical treatments on solid particle surfaces to enhance adsorption power. However, there were limitations in its application, since the treatment process is complex and its applicable range remains limited. Instead of chemical treatment on Pickering emulsion surfaces, the research team mixed small macromolecules a few nanometer in size with larger solid particles (tens of nanometers to a few micrometers). This induced depletion force was used to successfully stabilize the emulsion. Depletion force refers to the force a large number of small particles induces to aggregate the bigger particles, in order to secure free space for themselves. In short, the force induces an attraction between larger particles. Until now, depletion force could only be applied to solids and solid particles. However, the research team used macromolecules and large particles such as solid particles and oil droplets to show the applicability of depletion force between solids and liquids. By introducing macromolecules that act as smaller particles, hydrophilic solid particles enhanced the adsorption of solid particles to the oil droplet surface, while preventing dissociation from the particle surface, resulting in the maintenance of a stable state. The research team confirmed the possibility of the simple production of various porous macromolecular materials using stable Pickering emulsions. Such porous macromolecules are expected to be applicable in separation film, systems engineering, drug delivery, and sensors, given their large surface area. Professor KyuHan Kim, the first author said, “Until now, depletion force has only been used between solid colloid particles. This research has scientific significance since it is the first example of using depletion force between solid particles and liquid droplets.” Professor Choi said, “Beyond its academic significance, this technology could contribute to industries and national competitiveness.” He continued, “Since this technology uses physical force, not chemical, to produce stable emulsion, it can be used regardless of the type of solid particle and macromolecule. Further, it could be used in customized porous material production for special purposes.” The research was published in Nature Communications online on February 1. In particular, this research is significant since an undergraduate student, Subeen Kim, participated in the project as a second author through the KAIST Undergraduate Research Program (URP). This research was funded by the National Research Foundation of Korea. (Figure 1: Images of the inner structure of porous macromolecules produced using the new technology) (Figure 2: Images showing the measurement of rheological properties of Pickering emulsions and system processability) (Figure 3: Images showing a stable Pickering emulsion system)
2017 Summer Nuclear Nonproliferation Education Program
The Nuclear Nonproliferation Education and Research Center (NEREC) at KAIST announced its 30 scholarship recipients for the 2017 Summer Nuclear Nonproliferation Education Program on April 18. The six-week program, starting from July 10, will be run in Korea, Japan, and China. The program provides young global scholars with focused and challenging nuclear nonproliferation studies. Young scholars will be exposed to diverse science and technology policies and practices concurrently conducted in many countries and the future direction for enhancing nuclear nonproliferation. They will participate in a series of seminars, projects, international conferences, and field trips. Since its launch in 2014, the program has educated 71 young scholars. This year, more than 150 scholars from 37 countries applied for the program, reflecting the growing reputation of the program both at home and abroad. The director of the NEREC, Professor Man-Sung Yim of the Department of Nuclear and Quantum Engineering at KAIST said that young scholars from very prestigious foreign universities have shown strong interest in the program. According to Professor Yim, this year’s recipients are from 26 universities from 16 countries including Harvard University, Oxford University, the National Research Nuclear University of Russia, and the Tokyo Institute of Technology
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