Structural Bioinformatics Lab
Professor Sanguk Kim (Dept of Life Sciences)
It happens that a new cancer drug works perfectly for some patients but delivers zero efficacy for others. As to novel coronavirus infections (COVID-19), some people become infected but remain asymptomatic while others suffer serious immune responses and even die.
The Structural Bioinformatics Laboratory led by professor Sanguk Kim at the Department of Life Sciences, POSTECH, is developing artificial intelligence (AI) capable of identifying information that enables personalized treatment within the enormous sea of healthcare big data. If the effectiveness of a cancer drug is specific to a particular subset of patients, researchers can probe deeper to understand the unique characteristics of these individuals so as to maximize the treatment efficacy of the drug.
While patients suffering from the same medical condition are often given similar treatments, ‘precision medicine’ takes it to the next level with its tailored healthcare for individual patients. Admittedly, the potential of such cutting-edge and personalized medicine is yet to be fully realized in terms of tangible benefits. The Structural Bioinformatics Laboratory designs AI that assimilates big data such as data from Korea’s nation-wide healthcare insurance system and then provides doctors and/or patients with the information pertinent to their critical decision making, which brings them front and center to the real-life application of precision medicine. Such precision medicine technology created by the Lab is put to use to improve treatment efficacy in collaboration with the Samsung Medical Center, Seoul National University Hospital, and Severance Hospital among others.
The Lab analyzes all the available biological information of each patient – from their daily routines to their unique genetic sequence. Analyzing a patients’ genetic information helps identify his/her genetic background, family medical history and allergies that are taken into consideration in developing treatment options. The Lab is armed with high-capacity supercomputers that even support the analysis of Korea’s healthcare insurance data that covers the entire public in order to maximize the predictability of AI, which is attributable to its drive to remain true to the research principle‘When others just imagine how to calculate, we simply calculate’. This approach has enabled the research team to develop precision medicine technology to accurately predict the treatment sensitivity of different kinds of medications for individual patients suffering from bladder cancer. These findings have recently been featured in the international academic journal ‘Nature Communications’.
Precision medicine cannot be pursued by life scientists alone – it requires interdisciplinary efforts on the part of healthcare, computer and AI experts. As such, researchers at the Structural Bioinformatics Laboratory come from varying backgrounds including chemistry, computing, and AI in addition to life sciences, and the Lab itself is operated under the Graduate School of Artificial Intelligence as well as the Department of Life Sciences. Professor Kim proudly acknowledges that his research members all bring their own distinctive ideas to the table and come together in dialog to produce viable solutions and exceptional outcomes.
Head of Lab