The Circle Foundation (formerly known as the Ahn Cheol-Soo Foundation) is actively supporting the development of technology to treat high-risk novel viral infectious diseases, including COVID-19. As part of their efforts, Professor Sangjun Lee in the Department of Biological Sciences at UNIST has been selected for the 2023 Innovative Science and Technology Centers and Programs by the Circle Foundation.
On December 8, the foundation signed an agreement with the UNIST Center for Pandemic Treatment (Name Tentative), led by Professor Lee. The Innovative Science and Technology Centers and Programs by the Circle Foundation aim to provide support to scientists and experts dedicated to addressing challenges in various fields, such as environment, energy, and infectious diseases. This year, the foundation recruited participants in the area of innovative science and technology across five domains: environment, energy, health, cybersecurity, and AI.
Professor Lee was chosen in the health domain and is currently working on the development of a universal virus treatment to prevent fatal viral infections, including those resulting from cytokine storms. Cytokine storms are systemic inflammatory reactions triggered by the excessive release of cytokines, which are immune substances that respond to viral infections. The therapeutic agents being developed by Professor Lee aim to balance cytokine secretion by inhibiting the immune sensor protein ‘ZBP1’, which signals cytokine release. This approach offers the advantage of applicability to all viral infections, unlike existing antiviral drugs that need to be tailored for each new virus.
Professor Lee’s research on the ZBP1, a powerful innate immune sensor, has yielded remarkable breakthroughs, particularly in understanding its role in various viral infections. His findings have been published in prestigious journals such as Nature and Science Immunology.
Expressing gratitude to the Circle Foundation for providing an opportunity to pursue challenging and innovative research, Professor Lee stated, “We will strive to succeed in developing technology for infectious disease treatments that can contribute to the health and safety of vulnerable populations.”
The signing ceremony was attended by five research centers participating in the project, including Founder Cheol-Soo Anh of the Circle Foundation and Chairman Soon-Heung Chang (President of Busan University of Foreign Studies – BUFS).