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[Doctors with Patents] SNUH professor pursues stem cell research for real-life therapiesKim Hyo-soo pushes forward innovation in both clinical and basic research
  • By Marian Chu
  • Published 2018.05.22 15:35
  • Updated 2018.05.22 15:35
  • comments 0

Professor Kim Hyo-soo is known for his work in both basic and clinical research in the field of cardiology and stem cell research. His ultimate aim is to bring new innovative stem cell therapies to market.

As a master of multitasking, Kim told Korea Biomedical Review that he has enjoyed and endured work as both a physician and researcher throughout his career. He has published more than 100 papers and a handful of patents under his belt.

Kim has multiple titles. He is a professor at internal medicine department at Seoul National University (SNU)’s College of Medicine. He also serves as chairman and chief of the cardiovascular center at SNU Hospital (SNUH), and director of the National Research Laboratory for Cardiovascular Stem Cell Niche at SNU.

Professor Kim Hyo-soo talks about his stem cell research and his career as both a clinical and basic researcher in an interview with Korea Biomedical Review.

Kim’s most notable works include developing new therapeutic modalities using autologous stem cells for patients with myocardial infarction and getting it approved and reimbursed by the Korean government, making induced pluripotent stem cell from blood cells, and find three genes that can convert skin cells into blood vessels, among others. His team is now working towards developing tissue regenerating biotherapeutics.

On the fast track to stem cell research

Kim graduated from SNU’s College of Medicine in 1984 and went on to pursue his masters in medical science at the same school. He completed his internship and residency in internal medicine at SNUH, and finally obtained his Ph.D. in Medical Science at SNU.

After finishing his fellowship in cardiology at SNUH, he went to Japan following his mentor’s advice to work as a visiting researcher in molecular cardiology in the 3rd department of internal medicine at the University of Tokyo in 1992. At the time, molecular biology emerged as a new research field.

Upon his return a year and a half later, Kim opened a vascular lab but experienced what he called a personal “dark age” due to the lack of time and shortage of experienced lab members and other resources.

“The six years were my figurative dark age due to the difficulties of basic research but, at the time, I believed basic research work to be my duty because I was the only person in SNUH doing it,” Kim recalled.

After six years, Kim took two sabbatical years in Boston to learn gene and stem therapy as well as stem cell biology at St. Elizabeth Medical Center in Massachusetts. Upon completing his studies, Kim changed his field from vascular biology to stem cell biology when he returned to SNU.

“Stem cell research was a rising field from 2002 to 2010,” Kim said. “It was the happiest time in my life. I had a lot of ideas, made rapid progress and published significant papers. I also won several grants from the Korean government.”

From then on, he has published more than 100 papers in the fields of cardiology and stem cell research. Such work put him at the forefront of Korean physicians by not just treating patients but also driving forward scientific research.

It was also during this time that Kim obtained patents regarding his stem cell research. His patents include an innovate method to isolate highly-active stem cells from human stem cells, a method to produce induced pluripotent stem cells (IPS) from adult mature cells, a culture method to produce highly-active cells from human adipose tissue-derived cells and a method to create IPS cells by treating mature cells with lysate of embryonic stem cells.

With his achievements, Kim says his new goal is to commercialize his findings.

“Until 10 years ago, our goal was to make a good paper, but the actual goal of the research is not publishing papers in a major journal but making people healthier and happier. So commercialization became our motto. Money is a secondary product,” Kim said.

Kim himself has worked with various Korean biopharmaceutical companies including Medipost, Daewoong, Macrogen, and Yuhan by licensing out innovative stem cell differentiation and production methodology. His ultimate goal of doing so is to produce real-life therapies for patients while also providing resources for his students in basic research.

“My main motivation is commercializing our findings into a product to be used in treatment. It serves as a potential source of profit to share with students,” Kim said. “In Korea, young investigators in basic research face the worst circumstances economically. Commercializing our innovative items will provide hope for new students in the tough basic research field.”

Meanwhile, as a mentor and leading researcher, Kim stressed his junior faculty to focus on one specific area.

“From now on, it will be impossible to do both jobs. I always tell my junior faculty to focus on one specific area. For me, I can only put 50 percent of my energy and time into two fields. So I always tell my junior faculty to not do too many things,” Kim said.

“I would also advise that students be more interested in policy. Of course, your main interest is to care for patients, but the system influences the people, so you have to consider medical policy because it broadens and strengthens your impact,” he added.


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