Ewha professor revolutionizes study of amino acid
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Ewha professor revolutionizes study of amino acid
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  • 승인 2010.03.02 14:29
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 Professor Kim Kwan-mook (Chemistry & Nano Sciences) and his research team opened the way to mass-produce amino acids for the first time in history. With this new technology, Korea is able to domestically produce amino acids, a technique formerly monopolized by a few developed nations.
Amino acid is a key element of chemical technology that has a wide range of application from drugs to animal food production. The new technology is expected to start a ripple effect in the next generation of bio-drugs, including peptide medicine.
 “The key of this technology is a chemical named Alanine Racemase Chiral Analogue (ARCA). It helps almost all amino acids to change their form freely,” said Kim. Thanks to this success, people can now produce hundreds of high priced amino acids easily. This research can be adjusted in all kinds of amino acids including natural and artificial types.
 Among other similar research teams around the world, Professor Kim’s creativity to adjust the way enzymes work sets him apart from the rest.
 “I came up with the idea while talking to a colleague. During the conversation I realized enzymes have molecules to change L amino acid into D amino acid. It was a great hint in creating ARCA,” he said. “I always make note of some bizarre ideas I suddenly come up with which sometimes end up being very useful.”
Following the very first successful creation of ARCA, the research team managed to make this technology eco-friendly. Its manufacturing process called the “Shuttle Process,” uses an organic solvent that does not mingle with water. Since the organic solvent is reusable, recycling becomes possible.
 With this epoch making research, Korea is expected to hold an initiative in the global amino acid industry, which has an estimated value of 1000 trillion won.
 “It indeed is possible to lead the world market with the new technology. But technology can’t be the only solution,” said Kim. “Efforts from all related industries, national support and aid are needed.”
When the experiment was a success, two different feelings crossed his mind: the relief of finally seeing the fruits of his research and the huge pressure he felt from the sudden attention and expectations.
  “The pressure to live up to people’s expectations was really big. But what can I do? I have already stepped into this world of anticipation, so I will have to do my best,” he said.
Despite all the praise and congratulations from the media and related industries appraising the research as a revolutionary event in an amino acid industry, he never seems to lose his modesty.
  “It never ends. There is so much left to do. We should never stop being cautious before hastily enjoying success,” said Kim.
 Ever since he started studying amino acids in 2003, his research seems to be running on a highway. His further plans are not that much different from his consistent enthusiasm for amino acids and his curiosity is endless.
 “I have an interest in the reason why all natural amino acids are in L shape. I also think I could find some new material through the combination of amino acids,” Kim said.
Professor Kim’s sincerety and endurance was evident in the hour-long lecture he gave the Ewha Voice reporter on amino acids. His outstanding acheivements continue to inspire Ewha students.

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