Updated on 1 April 2013
In the personal genome analysis market, Direct-To-Consumer (DTC) companies have been launching fresh in Korea with the estimated market size to be $275 million in year 2014 and double by the next year. Acknowledging its importance, the Ministry of Health and Welfare, Ministry for Food, Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, Ministry of Land, Transport and Maritime Affairs, Ministry of Education, Science and Technology, Ministry of Knowledge Economy and Rural Development Administration have recently conducted a study, ‘Joint genomic project in promotion of new industries in the post-genomic era'. It has been proven feasible as a preliminary feasibility study. Hence, investment to its R&D will see an upswing with $540 million to be injected from the national treasury into genome research over eight years starting in 2014.
Tell us about your research interests and work in this field?
My interest in this research field is to search for risk or protective factors -gene, environment and gene-environment interactions-associated with the development or survival in various diseases using molecular epidemiology as a tool, and eventually use the factors found to build prediction models and apply the results to the real world. Some of the disesases we have dealt with are breast cancer, childhood leukemia, stomach cancer and bladder cancer.
One of the studies that have produced various important results is a case-control study for breast cancer study, namely Seoul Breast Cancer Study (SeBCS) since 1993. We have reported the risks between genetic variation and breast cancer according to the estrogen and the progesterone receptor status. Our work also stretches to genome-wide studies, epigenomics and pharmacogenomics (pharmacogenetics) research.
Another important area of interest is cohort, which can provide the highest level of evidence in the field of observational epidemiologic studies. In 2004, my colleagues and I have constructed a large genomic cohort to investigate such genetic, environmental factors and their interactive effects in the development of chronic diseases in a healthy population and are waiting for fruitful results to come. Also, we have been participating in international collaborative projects, such as Asia Cohort Consortium to search for the important epidemiologic risk factors in Asian population.
How did you get interested in this field and what inspires you to continue your work as a researcher and an administrator of a medical school?
The concept of molecular epidemiology was starting to get attention and the field was gradually growing when I was involved in one of my first studies investigate exposure biomarkers of occupational exposure to PAHs (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons). Molecular epidemiology is a field of epidemiologic research in which biomarkers are used to clarify the missing link or the black box obscuring the association between exposure and disease outcome.