Korea opens first biochip R&D center

September 13, 2001 – Korea – Korea will open its first R&D center dedicated to state-of-the-art biochips, Hanyang U. said.

The facility, which begins operations next week, sits on the university’s Ansan campus and is part of the Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Energy’s plan to strengthen national competitiveness in the high tech industrial sector.

The Micro Biochip Center will be headed by Lee Eun-kyoo, a professor of chemical engineering at Hanyang and will hold an academic symposium to mark its opening.

“The center will be tasked with training personnel and conducting biochip research,” said Lee, who predicted close cooperation between various supporters should bring about a positive synergy effect. He also said that the center will act as a link between business, research laboratories and academia.

The center’s new director also said a special forum made up of experts from biotech and IT sectors, tentatively called the BIT Forum, will be founded to facilitate the flow of information and knowledge.

Biochips are designed to “freeze” or fuse short strands of DNA into glass or silicon wafers. When applied to computers and other mechanical devices, such syntheses could revolutionize the speed, size and accuracy of data processing systems. Biochips have also played an important role in dramatically accelerating identification procedures for the Human Genome Project and can also be used to quickly identify chemical warfare agents.

Experts predict expanded applications await the chips in the medical profession, where they could be used to detect the causes of infections, and in agribusiness, where they could help test the effects of pesticides on soil.

Lab officials said 12 billion won ($9.28 million) will be poured into the venture in the next five years. The commerce ministry will provide the bulk of the money by allocating 7 billion won ($5.4 million) in research aid, followed by Kyonggi Province and the city of Ansan which will contribute 700 million and 350 million won respectively.

In addition, 13 private companies will chip in by raising an additional 325 million, while Hanyang U. and Ansan Technopark will donate the building and equipment.

Private companies planning to participate in the fundraising and subsequent research include chemical and biotech concerns like Pacific Corp., Miwon Commercial Co. and Iljin Co. and startups dedicated to gene and pharmaceutical research like Genocheck Inc., D.I Biotech Ltd. and S.E.O. Seoul Clinical Laboratories (SCL) might also join the project.

The center said that besides local experts and technicians, it will try to recruit experienced foreign researchers currently working in this field abroad, who could lead development projects.


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