South Korean entrepreneur JungJin SEO knew very little about science or medicine before founding a biopharmaceutical firm in 2003. He studied Industrial Engineering but lost his job at an automaker during the Asian financial crisis. Looking for new business opportunities, JungJin heard a leading scientist talk about the future of medicine and decided to start his own biopharmaceutical company with colleagues. Today, Celltrion is a multibillion-dollar pharmaceutical company, developing groundbreaking drugs to treat cancer, autoimmune diseases and COVID-19.
At first, Celltrion manufactured drugs for other companies, but JungJin was keen to branch out. He spotted the potential of biosimilars — biologic medical products highly similar to already approved biological drugs used to treat diseases such as cancer. Borrowing money to travel, JungJin researched the concept by interviewing scientists all over the world. He then led his team to develop biosimilars to original monoclonal antibody treatments that mimic the natural antibodies the body generates to fight infection.
Celltrion confounded its competitors and launched Remsima, the world’s first biosimilar monoclonal antibody drug, for the treatment of autoimmune diseases like Crohn’s disease and arthritis. The success of Remsima was swiftly followed by the launch of treatments for breast cancer and lymphoma in South Korea, Europe and the United States. JungJin believes Celltrion’s drugs offer affordable alternatives to a greater number of patients around the world.