ICKSMCB 2023 / 2023 International Conference of the Korean Society for Molecular and Cellular Biology / September 28 - 30, 2023 / ICC JEJU

Award Lecture

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KSMCB Presidential Lecture Award Lecture

November 8Wed, 14:00-14:40, Tamna Hall A (5F)

Twists and Turns in My Life as a Life Scientist

Yeon-Soo Seo, Ph.D.
KAIST, Korea

Chair: Dae-Sik Lim, Ph.D. (KAIST, Korea)

Dr. Yeon-Soo Seo is currently a professor emeritus of Department of Biological Sciences, KAIST. In 1992, Dr. Seo earned a doctoral degree at Cornell University in USA for his studies on ‘Initiation of DNA Replication of Simian Virus 40 and Human Cellular Helicases’ under the guidance of Dr. Jerard Hurwitz, who was a true giant in the field of nucleic acid enzymology and a founder of the modern molecular biology. Dr. Seo did his postdoctoral training from 1992 to 1994 at Sloan-Kettering Institute. During this period, he investigated the roles of the E1 and E2 viral proteins in the regulated initiation of bovine papilloma viral DNA replication. In 1994, he returned to Korea to be a principal investigator at Samsung Biomedical Research Institute in Seoul, Korea, and in 1999 he was appointed as an associate professor at Sungkyunkwan University School of Medicine. In 2002, he joined the faculty of Department of Biological Sciences, KAIST, where he served as a tenured professor until his retirement in 2023.

He was keenly interested in and, thus, participated directly and indirectly in the investigation of two major scientific misconducts in Korea, receiving a Governmental Citation Award for Excellence in Establishing Research Integrity in 2009. His public devotion further extended to the advancement of domestic bio-industry. To this end, he established Core Protein Resources Center in 2016, wishing that it can function as a top-notch national research center that can provide state-of-art technological and advisory supports to bio-venture companies. He himself founded Enzynomics Inc. in 2007 that specializes in production of high-quality enzymes and proteins for the use of researches and diagnostics. Since his retirement from KAIST, he has been serving as CEO of Enzynomics.

Since Dr. Yeon-Soo Seo became an independent researcher, he had dedicated himself to elucidation of mechanism and factors involved in Okazaki fragment processing in eukaryotes by studying Dna2 endonuclease/helicase in this process. He was a recipient of the two prestigious funds, National ‘Creative Research Initiatives’ Fund, 1999-2007 and National ‘Leap Forward’ Fund, 2007-2012. These two long-term funds allowed him to begin a life-long project, which ultimately aimed to understand the mechanistic link between faulty DNA replication and genome instability, which potentially could account for underlying molecular mechanisms of cancer and many human genetic disorders caused by genome instability. He found that Dna2 conjointly worked with numerous (~20) proteins/enzymes critically involved in cell-cycle checkpoint, DNA replication, repair, and recombination. Based on results obtained from extensive analyses of physical and functional interactions of Dna2 with its interaction partners identified in his lab, he proposed that “Okazaki fragment processing acts as a platform where a number of proteins with roles in a variety of DNA transactions listed above, act together to minimize the hazardous outcome associated with lagging strand DNA synthesis in eukaryotes.” He further hypothesized that “the intrinsic nature of complexity underlying this process” is a fundamental source of replication errors of all dividing cells, predicting that genetic errors accumulate with greatest chances in most actively dividing cells. This hypothesis could account for occurrence of cancers from cells even in the absence of their exposure to carcinogenic agents. Ironically, he is a recent survivor of acute myeloid leukemia, the disease of which could be explained by his own hypothesis. Dr. Seo is currently interested in establishing a charity foundation that can help patients of rare genetic diseases and blood cancers.