UPDATE : Friday, August 7, 2020
‘We know Korean genes best’Genetic medicine expert sets up genetic testing firm GENINUS
  • By Park Gi-taek
  • Published 2018.07.24 14:42
  • Updated 2018.07.26 14:33
  • comments 0

A Korean authority in genetic medicine established a genetic testing company GENINUS, using his research achievements.

“You can expect this company to have the world’s best technology in analyzing genetic information,” said Park Woong-yang, CEO of GENINUS and director at Samsung Genome Institute.

Park Woong-yang, CEO of GENINUS and director at Samsung Genome Institute

Park is the first director of the institute, established by Samsung Medical Center in 2013. He contributed to developing “cancer scan,” a diagnostic technology that identifies cancer-causing gene mutations in patients and suggests customized therapies.

Korea Biomedical Review met with director Park, who was rolling up his sleeves to commercialize technologies that analyze various genetic information. Park doubles as GENINUS CEO.

Park is also working as chairman of the “Healthcare Special Committee” under the Presidential Commission on the Fourth Industrial Revolution. His job is to paint a big picture for Korea’s reform of regulations in the healthcare and medical industry and revitalization of the industry.

Question: What made you establish GENINUS?

Answer: It is fun and valuable to do new research at a university and a hospital. But the ultimate goal of research is to help patients and the public. Working at a university or a hospital has limitations. You can’t really do research to promote the public health and help people stay healthy.

I found it more appropriate for a business to conduct a study that leads to product development and that can compete in the global market. So, I received some support from Samsung Medical Center and established the firm.

The vision of the company is to “promote the public health by analyzing genetic information,” which is to make the public become healthy. It also means that we should build an ecology for the healthcare industry in the era of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

Q: What kind of products will GENINUS offer?

A: At first, we will launch a customized health management service based on individuals’ genetic information in the second half of this year. We will provide this service at health checkup centers at medical institutions including Samsung Medical Center.

Q: How is your genetic testing different from conventional ones?

A: In the past five years, Samsung Genome Institute has collected many algorithms and information on Korean people’s genes. Based on this data, we will provide a service that reflects the generic characteristics of the Korean people.

We have the knowledge about Korean people’s gene mutation information, which is unavailable elsewhere in the world. Our service is different in that we make health prediction models with genetic mutations, family history, age, and lifestyle information. We let our clients know the level of the disease risk, how to prevent the disease, and how to correct lifestyle and habits.

In addition, we do not merely interpret gene mutations. We apply an artificial intelligence learning algorithm, substantially improving the accuracy of diagnosis and testing. Unlike existing competitors, we are well connected to hospitals. In our program, medical doctors are directly involving in content development.

Q: Can you elaborate more on GENINUS’ genetic testing service?

A: We will start providing analysis of genetic diseases based on items recommended by the American College of Medical Genetics (ACMG) such as cancer and heart diseases.

For example, a person with arrhythmia usually has no symptoms but the disease has a high possibility of sudden death. If you’re aware of the possibility of having arrhythmia with the help of genetic disease analysis, you can prevent sudden death by using an artificial cardiac pacemaker.

We also plan to provide a service to check the side effects and efficacy of 38 most common drugs in Korea.

Patients, who should take Statin to lower cholesterol, may not be able to do so due to muscular pain. If we are able to know it in advance, we may encourage the patient to take Statin with fewer side effects or other medications to manage the disease more effectively. Our service can screen patients with high risk of hepatotoxicity when taking Tylenol.

Along with this, our service will detect the risk of six cancer – stomach, lung, colon, liver, breast, and prostate -- and four chronic diseases – hypertension, myocardial infarction, stroke, and diabetes --, in advance.

Lastly, we’re also preparing obesity-related service. All chronic diseases start with obesity. According to the 2015 national health and nutrition survey, only 15 percent of the overweight people were able to succeed in weight loss. Raising the rate of weight control will lower the ratio of chronic diseases.

Q: Do you mean that a genetic testing will help people control weight more effectively?

A: Yes. Some people find it difficult to lose weight even though they exercise intensely, while other easily lose weight only by reducing the amount of meal. The difference comes from their genetic differences.

In fact, a study of 300 Koreans confirmed that changing dietary habits according to genes could make weight control more effective. Through genetic testing, some people may find out that they can manage obesity more effectively by eating less fat than carbohydrates.

Q: What is your next move and goals?

A: Most people don’t know that eating doenjang (soybean paste) or cheonggukjang (fermented soybean paste) lowers the effect of blood clot busters. We know about the Korean people’s characteristics that are hard to find in other countries.

This is why it is important to have Korean-specific data and technology. GENINUS will be the company that knows Korean genes the best and contribute to the public health.


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