Professor Eunjoon Kim of the Department of Biological Sciences and Professor Ho Min Kim from the Graduate School of Medical Science and Engineering have become laureates of the 11th Asan Award in Medicine. The Asan Award in Medicine, created in 2007, is presented every year to medical scientists who have significantly contributed to the development of Korea’s medical science through their research. Professor Eunjoon Kim received the Award in Basic Medicine, while Professor Ho Min Kim received the Award for Young Medical Scientists. This is the fourth year since the commencement of the awards that KAIST has produced laureates.
Professor Eunjoon Kim was selected as the recipient of the Award in Basic Medicine in recognition of his work with neural synapses. In 1995, he became the first in the world to uncover the principle behind the formation and function of synaptic linkages between neurons. In 2011, he identified the lack of synaptic proteins in the brain as the cause of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). He further found in 2015 that an excessive increase in certain neurotransmitter receptors could lead to a lack of sociality, a major symptom of autism and schizophrenia.
Explaining the reason for Professor Eunjoon Kim’s selection for the award, the Asan Foundation commented, “Through his research in the relationship between synapse proteins and brain diseases, Professor Kim has significantly furthered our understanding of the causes behind several mental illnesses. We expect him to play an important role in the development of future therapeutics for these illnesses.”
The Award for Young Medical Scientists is given to medical scientists under the age of 40. The KAIST recipient Professor Ho Min Kim had been the first to identify the 3D structure of key proteins that regulate immune cells and nerve cell function. Through this research, he elucidated the regulation mechanism of synapse formation, opening up new possibilities for mental illness treatment.
Other Asan Award recipients this year include Professor Youngjoo Pang from Seoul National University for the Award in Clinical Medicine and Professor Bumkyung Kim from Yonsei National University. At the awards ceremony held on March 21, a total of 70 million KRW was awarded to the four laureates.