By Chung Hyun-chae

Ewha Womans University is strengthening its cooperation with industry, particularly its partnerships in the chemistry and biotechnology fields.

“We are now concentrating on conducting joint research with businesses and transferring chemistry and biotechnology knowledge to them,” Oh Eok-soo, president of the Ewha University-Industry Collaboration Foundation (EUICF) and a life sciences professor at the university, told The Korea Times during a recent interview at his office in Seoul.

Ewha built the University-Industry Cooperation Building in April 2014 to help aance academic-industrial cooperation.

Owing to its strength in chemistry and nano-science, Ewha signed an agreement on academic-industrial cooperation with Solvay, a Belgium-based global chemical company, in 2011.

Following this, the school built a building for the firm’s global business unit and the Ewha-Solvay Research amp Innovation Center Solvay invested 24.4 billion won ($22. 57 million) in the center

“This is the first time an international company has established its research center in a local university,” Oh said. “I hope this helps raise our research capacity to a world-class level. ”

In the building, Ewha students and professors jointly work with Solvay on three projects on eco-friendly energy materials, and one project on aanced materials and polymers. “We initially agreed to conduct joint projects to develop ‘metal air,’ which is electric cells that will help our environment,” Oh said. Collaboration with companies

The building also houses the Western Seoul Center of the Korea Basic Science Institute (KBSI), the Ewha Brain Institute, the Business Incubator, and the foundation. Two companies, DNA Link, Inc. and Hyundai IBT, plan to move in to the building later this month and in June, respectively.

The KBSI is a government-funded research center specializing in convergence and integration studies in nanotechnology, materials, biotechnology and medicine.

“It has 30 billion won worth of state-of-the-art scientific research equipment,” Oh said.At the EwhaBrain Institute, researchers focus on multidisciplinary studies in neuroscience and various other fields, including the natural sciences, medicine, engineering, economics, politics and education, which means that liberal arts students can also participate in some projects.

The institute also has cutting-edge research equipment, including MRI scanners. According to Oh, young researchers and scientists come to the building to use its equipment.

DNA Link, Inc. is a startup specializing in DNA analysis services, while Hyundai IBT develops medicine, including anticancer drugs, by combining information technology and biotechnology.

“They are both related to our biotechnology focus, and they are of great help to the medical and pharmaceutical fields as well,” Oh said.

Biotechnology is becoming a key area for the university, and thus, Ewha President Choi Kyung-hee is working to strengthen the university’s health care research in the coming years.

Generating synergy

“The building is special, as it houses industrial and academic organizations as well as research institutes and state-run agencies, which could help generate synergy among them,” Oh said. “No other local university has this kind of structure yet. ”

Oh described the structure as an “organic system,” as exemplified by the partnership between the Office of Research and thecollaboration foundation located on the fifth floor of the building.

Thefoundationis comprised of four teams: research promotion, research support, academic-industrial and a business incubator

“There are no partitions, which facilitates communication among the teams,” Oh said. Solvay internship programs

Ewha and Solvay have also created internship programs for chemistry majors to give them hands-on experience.

In 2013, three chemistry and nano science students were sent to a Solvay research laboratory in Italy to assist in joint research between the company and the university.

In January this year, an environment engineering student was sent to another laboratory in France for a six-month internship.

Since 2012, the university has also provided 16 master’s and doctoral scholarships in chemistry, nano-science, medicine, the life sciences, environment engineering and physics, totaling 364 million won.

“The scholarships have been expanded to other majors,” Oh said.

Ewha-Jackson laboratory plan

In line with increasing its contribution to biotechnology research, Ewha plans to expand the building to house the Ewha-Jackson Laboratory.

“We will work together with Jackson Laboratory in commercializing the customized medical services,” Oh said.

Jackson Laboratory is a US-based biomedical research institution working on mammalian genetics research to help improve health care services.

Led by chair professor Charles Lee, the university will launch the Jackson Laboratory Korea in cooperation with DNA Link, Inc. in 2016.

The three organizations have yet to sign an agreement. According to Oh, however, Ewha already has two concrete action plans ?one is to launch a research center for the analysis of genomes to develop a customized cancer treatment and the other is to establish a so-called “bio bank” in which researchers breed “avatar mice” having different cancers.

The avatar mice will enable researchers to see the progress and effectiveness of treatments.

“Cancers in Korean patients have distinct features, so we need to have our own bio bank, different from America’s,” Oh said. He stressed that the research is not conducted for business purposes.

“We have a vision to be a world-renowned customized medical research center,” Oh said.

SOURCE: The Korea Times