The Richard Merkin Visiting Fellowship Program will begin on January 1, 2015 with the arrival of Dong-guk Paeng, PhD from Jeju National University in Korea.
Dr. Paeng was selected from a competitive pool of applicants based on recommendations and his research experience at several world-class institutions. During his 13-month appointment as a Visiting Professor at the University of Virginia Department of Radiation Oncology, Paeng will join the Foundation’s technical brain program, helping to lead efforts to develop safe and effective ways to use focused ultrasound, including histotripsy to expand the regions of the brain that can be accessed and treated with the technology.
“Until now, it has been mostly the thermal effects of focused ultrasound that have been investigated and applied to the brain. It’s time to explore the mechanical cavitation effects like histotripsy on brain tissue. Although it’s challenging, we hope to open another door to brain therapy with minimal overheating of adjacent tissue and unwanted side effects,” said Paeng.
A generous gift from Dr. Richard Merkin allowed the Foundation to create this unique opportunity for senior international researchers. The purpose of the fellowship is to embed a scientist with the Foundation team and stimulate collaboration. This project will create a research alliance between experts at the Foundation, Jeju National University and other institutions. Dr. Merkin is a renowned physician, entrepreneur, and philanthropist. He is currently the CEO of Heritage Provider Network, serves on the Cal Tech Board of Directors among others, and co-founded FasterCures, an action think tank that seeks to speed up the time it takes to get important new medicines from discovery to patients. Dr. Merkin developed and sponsored the $3 million Heritage Health Prize Challenge, the largest predictive modeling prize in the world, to create an algorithm to save the country $40 billion in avoidable hospitalizations.
Paeng studied engineering and earned his Master’s degree at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. His interest in biomedical ultrasound and acoustics then led him to Pennsylvania State University, where he researched tissue characterization using ultrasound and earned his PhD. While doing postdoctoral work at the University of Southern California, Paeng investigated the use of therapeutic ultrasound to open retinal vein occlusion.
Paeng, his wife Kyoung-hee, and their three daughters are looking forward to living in central Virginia. Twins Heemang and Somang are excited to make new international friends, play violin in orchestra, and work on their basketball game. Younger sister Sowon is a red belt in taekwondo and plans to continue learning the American interpretation of the art.