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It's in the incubation stage

Summer interns help business at HCC center do cancer research

August 30, 2010
  • From left, Tae Rho and Paul Park, college interns, work with Ji Hoon Lee, CEO of Luminescent MD, a biotech research firm in the Technical Innovation Center at Hagerstown Community College.
Submitted photo,

College students Paul Park and Tae Rho have spent their summer break helping Ji Hoon Lee conduct experimental research to help develop new ways to detect cancer.

Working with Oak Ridge National Laboratory, two faculty members from Clemson University's Department of Environmental Engineering and Earth Science, and Dr. John Newby of Washington County Health System, Lee expects to involve the students in the project for the next three years during their summer and winter breaks.

"My interns are developing new analytical methods for the quantification of various enzymes in human serum," said Lee, CEO of Luminescent MD, a biotech research firm in the Technical Innovation Center at Hagerstown Community College. "Based on the findings of this work, I believe that we will be able to apply for a U.S. patent."

The project involves the development of a microchip that will aid in the detection of particular chemicals present in a person's blood, helping scientists diagnose certain types of cancer, including prostate, breast, liver, stomach and thyroid.

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"I'm surprised at how the simplest test can provide data that can lead to bigger conclusions than you originally thought possible," said Park, who will begin his freshman year at Johns Hopkins University this fall. "It's been really interesting to have the chance to get hands-on experience."

Park, of Potomac, Md., will study chemical and biomolecular engineering at Johns Hopkins University and ultimately plans to enter medical school.

Rho, of Bethesda, Md., will enter his sophomore year at Brown University, where he is studying biochemistry. He also plans to enter medical school.

"This internship has been very exciting because of the potential it offers," Rho said. "The theory is complicated, but the research is simple and straight-forward. Having done actual research is crucial to getting into medical school."

Lee is a former faculty member in the Department of Biological Sciences at Clemson University. He is pursuing grant funding for this project through the U.S. Department of Defense. He started his biotech research firm in Hagerstown three years ago.

The Technical Innovation Center is HCC's business incubator, which assists early-stage technology firms and helps create high-wage jobs in Washington County.

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