Photo of Jung Jin Seo

JungJin SEO, Celltrion Group, is EY World Entrepreneur Of The Year™ 2021

JungJin SEO’s Celltrion Group in South Korea has developed groundbreaking drugs to treat cancer, autoimmune diseases and COVID-19. 

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.

Entrepreneurship to me has always been about bringing together a group of people toward a common vision, embracing challenges as opportunities and committing oneself to contribute to the greater good.

Not every project has been successful. Early on, JungJin risked losing everything after investing heavily in the contract manufacturing organization facilities for an HIV vaccine that failed in clinical trials. Fortunately, a shrewd investment in facilities to manufacture drugs for other companies enabled Celltrion to stay afloat. Since then, JungJin says the ability to “overcome the fear of failure and turn a crisis into an opportunity” is part of the company’s culture.

JungJin believes his industry has a duty to act in the interest of the country at a time of crisis. Celltrion has led the field in developing an antibody treatment for COVID-19, which was approved for use in South Korea in February 2021. Passionate about putting an end to the pandemic, JungJin is doing his part by offering the treatment to Koreans at production cost.

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JungJin SEO of South Korea is the EY World Entrepreneur Of The Year 2021. He has grown Celltrion into a multibillion-dollar pharmaceutical company, developing groundbreaking biosimilars such as Remsima for the treatment of autoimmune diseases.

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