An Institute for Basic Science research team has analyzed all genetic information to pinpoint the exact location of the gene of SARS-COV-2, the coronavirus that causes the disease COVID-19. (Institute for Basic Science)

By Lee Hana

A research team has completed a high-resolution genetic map for SARS-COV-2, the coronavirus that causes the disease COVID-19, a finding that could contribute to the development of diagnostic reagents that eventually produces a cure.  

The Institute for Basic Science (IBS) announced on April 9 that its ribonucleic acid (RNA) research team headed by Seoul National University professors Kim V. Narry and Chang Hye-sik, in a joint study with the National Institute of Health, achieved this result. Details of the research's outcome were uploaded on the same day to the online edition of Cell, a peer-reviewed scientific journal for research papers on life sciences. 

The team used next-generation analytical methods to analyze the coronavirus' transcriptome, the set of all RNA molecules in one cell or a population of cells, to pinpoint the exact location of the coronavirus gene. In addition to detailing the structure of SARS-COV-2, the team also discovered numerous new RNAs and multiple unknown chemical modifications on viral RNAs. 

SARS-COV-2 is a coronavirus made up of RNAs. When entering the host cell, the coronavirus replicates RNAs containing genetic info while producing sub-genetic RNAs that create a number of structural proteins. The replicated RNAs and proteins combine to become progeny virions that escape from the cell and infect other cells. The group of RNAs produced inside the host cell are called the transcriptome.

In its study, the team experimentally identified sub-genetic RNA produced from genetic RNAs and analyzed all genetic data on each transcriptome, pinpointing where genes are located in genetic RNAs. 

"We have to work on the newly discovered RNA modifications to confirm if they play a role in virus replication and immune response. It appears the chemical modifications are related to the survival and immune responses of the virus," Kim said.

"These RNAs and RNA variations could be candidates for new targets when developing antiviral treatment. We were able to grasp exactly how the SARS-COV-2 transcriptome is constructed, and will use this knowledge to improve our diagnostic method for polymerase chain reaction (PCR)."


images courtesy of alaka’i technologies


By Hyunjin Choi


Lengthening flight time is one of the main issues for the drone market. The power source for UAV (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle) is mostly lithium batteries, which are able to provide power just for about 20 minutes of air time. So as to extend the running time, the size of the battery needs to be bigger, but bigger mass hinders the drones’ performance.


In this regard, liquefaction hydrogen cells have emerged as an alternative because they deliver a greater performance in the compressed form than fossil fuels or gaseous hydrogen fuels. Other than the performance, liquid hydrogen cells are attractive power sources in the sense of safety and environment. It is safer than the conventional fuel as it dissipates quickly in the air, making it hard to catch fire even in the case a tank is accidentally punctured. Besides, mostly composed of hydrogen and oxygen, it is extremely eco-friendly, producing zero-emission.


However, there still remain a few problems to be addressed: how to produce, transport, and store it.



Here, a Korean hydrogen fuel cell startup, Hylium Industries, Inc.(Born2Global Centre Member '18~'19), might suggest an answer for them with a new technology of liquefying hydrogen. Hylium developed the highly difficult cryogenic liquefaction technology in 2014, in turn, succeeding in developing liquid hydrogen tanks which can be utilized for UAV (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle). It is very challenging to convert gas-form hydrogen into liquid form since it needs to be cooled at ultra-low temperature, below minus 253 Celsius. In addition, making liquid hydrogen usable fuel is the key to the UAV industry as it is cumbersome to compress and store colorless and odorless hydrogen.Hylium managed to deal with the aforementioned issues in the automotive perspective with cryogenic devices.


The liquid hydrogen cells Hylium Industries developed can be used not only for drones but for small air mobility such as air taxis. Recognizing Hylium’s cryogenic liquefaction technology, Alaka’i, a Massachusetts-based aviation startup, debuted “Skai,” a hydrogen powered flying car in a mockup in LA at BMW Designworks in May. The hydrogen cells by Hylium boost run times of Skai from 20 minutes of conventional batteries up to four hours (400 miles) of flight with even five passenger capacity, depending on the size of the UAV’s fuel tank. With a charge for 10 minutes, it can commute nearby cities, not just within a city. With longer distances by stronger batteries, the multi copters are expected to act as ambulances  as well as mere commuting vehicles. 


With Skai launching, Hylium has stood out as one of the world’s best hydrogen tech-based companies since the flying car company led by aerospace experts from NASA, Raytheon, Airbus, Boeing, and the Department of Defense chose the technology of a Korean hydrogen company to power its own product, beating out all other competitive fuel cell providers worldwide.



Hylium already attracted grand attention after demonstrating mobile Hydrogen Refueling Station, a five-ton truck carrying fueling equipment in 2018. Hylium developed it with support of a world-renowned automotive company, Hyundai and Gwangju Creative Economy Innovation Center. Due to the high initial cost for building a hydrogen refueling system as well as the safety issue for gaseous hydrogen, it was hard to construct a refueling hydrogen station with the expected cost of 3 billion dollars.


However, Hylium addresses the issues of cost, safety, and lack of numbers for hydrogen stations by developing a mobile Hydrogen Refueling Station. With the huge liquefaction hydrogen tank mounted on the truck, it can easily locate and move to hydrogen powered car owners in need of charging fuels. The mobile Hydrogen Refueling Station can store up to 7,500 liters of low-pressure liquid hydrogen and fill up to 100 hydrogen-powered cars per day.



The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety of the U.S. announced on Aug. 8 that the 2019 Hyundai Nexo, a hydrogen fuel cell vehicle, won the Virginia-based think tank's highest rating for safety. (Hyundai Motor Company)

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety of the U.S. announced on Aug. 8 that the 2019 Hyundai Nexo, a hydrogen fuel cell vehicle, won the Virginia-based think tank's highest rating for safety. (Hyundai Motor Company)

By Lee Jihae 

The 2019 Hyundai Nexo, a vehicle powered by hydrogen fuel cells, has earned the highest safety ratings not only in Korea and Europe but also the U.S. 

The Virginia-based Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) tested the Nexo at the request of Hyundai Motor Company, and in a report released on Aug. 8, the think tank gave the vehicle the Top Safety Pick Plus award, the highest issued by the IIHS. 

This was the first time for the think tank to test a fuel cell vehicle. A model qualifies for the IIHS award if it earns good ratings in the driver- and passenger-side small overlap fronts, moderate overlap front, side, roof strength and head restraint tests. It must also have an advanced or superior rating for front crash prevention and a good headlight rating. 

The Nexo last year also earned a string of top safety awards in Europe and Korea. In October last year, it attained the highest safety grade of five stars from the New Car Assessment Program of Europe and in December, it won the award for best medium-size SUV from the Korean New Car Assessment Program of the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport.

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