News & Interviews
DATE: 2022-02-25

SNUH leads genomic medicine equipped with all three — education, research, and treatment

SNUH begins full-scale operation of the 'Clinical Genomic Medicine' outpatient clinic

Seoul National University Hospital(SNUH) opened the “Department of Genomic Medicine” by integrating its Precision Medicine Center and Rare Diseases Center, has established the “SNUH Bio Portal” by drawing together various cancer and genomic data accumulated within the hospital.

Below is an interview with Park Kyung-soo, head of the Department of Endocrinology, and Professor Chae Jong-hee from the Department of Pediatrics at Seoul National University Hospital’s Clinical Genomic Medicine Department about future operation plans for the ‘SNUH Bio Portal’.

Question: SNUH has established the Department of Genomic Medicine for the first time among Korean hospitals. What are the reasons for its establishment?

Park: We had the Department of Genetics a long time ago. However, it didn’t work at all. All it did was to study information, including genomics, by launching a bio-mark center at Medicine and Life Research Institute. After this, the hospital established Precision Medicine Center and Rare Disease Center, beginning to apply genomic medicine and precision medicine to clinical practices actively. However, there were not many doctors who could interpret genomic analysis results brought by patients, although we said we were implementing precision medicine. That was because we had failed to train physicians properly except for some oncologists. How could they do it as they couldn’t learn it at medical school? So, I thought it necessary to foster manpower systematically and conduct research in line with that. Unlike clinics and centers, medical departments do not stop at simple treatments. It should have three elements of treatment, education, and research.

Question: How is the department organized, and how will you operate it?

Park: The department systematically conducts genomic tests and treatments, which had been done sporadically. To this end, it has opened five clinics undiagnosed – rare disease clinic (for children and adults), prenatal and pre-implantation genetic test clinic, family endocrine metabolic disease clinic, genetic counseling clinic, and family cancer clinic. We plan to increase clinics gradually. One of our department’s advantages is that it can receive supports manpower specializing in genetic disorders and other similar areas. The department has five professors specializing in internal medicine, pediatrics and adolescents, neurology, and diagnostic test medicine, one fellow, and three Ph. D, making it possible to conduct interdisciplinary treatment. Not one doctor but a group of specialists see a patient visiting the clinic.

Question: Do you plan to open data at SNUH Bio Portal to researchers at other

Park: Of course, we plan to open them to other hospitals. There is no reason to monopolize it. Therefore, we are preparing to make the portal run smoothly even if external data enters it, considering flexibility and scalability. However, other hospitals should also put data in SNUH Bio Portal. Then, the total national data can grow tremendously.

Chae: Genomic information has been concentrated in the research domain. However, it can have significance as evidence only when the existing genomic information is upgraded whenever patients’ clinical features change. We at SNUH plan to undergo the verification process. We will decide whether we can expand it after confirming accumulated data. That also suffice for the purpose of SNUH as the national central hospital.

Question: Many institutions analyze genomic information. What are your suggestions for them as genomic medicine experts?

Chae: One should not think the analysis of genomic information is the end. Many applications interpret genomic information using computers and make diagnoses. However, people majoring in genetics and genetic engineering jump into this area without proper training, some very troublesome could occur. Most genomic information contains bad news. So, if untrained people are involved, they can mistake normal cases for genetic diseases, breaking up entire families.

Park: One should not judge based on only information without proper training.
Only well-trained people can discern significant information from insignificant ones. They can make correct diagnoses only when they know if there’s pathological importance.

Sources: KBR(

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