During these trying times, entrepreneurs have doggedly kept their businesses moving forward but great ones have reached back to counsel and contribute to the society. Such is the case for JungJin Seo — honorary chairman of South Korea-based Celltrion Group — who has just been named EY Entrepreneur Of The Year 2021.
The 63-year-old who founded biopharmaceutical firm Celltrion in 2003 was picked from among 45 award winners from 38 countries and territories competing for the global award. This also marks a milestone for South Korea as JungJin is the first in the country to bag the accolade in the award’s 21-year history.
Celltrion has lived up its ambition to advance health and welfare for all by developing groundbreaking drugs to treat autoimmune diseases, different forms of cancer, and most recently, Covid-19. Armed with just US$45,000 in the beginning, JungJin — together with five of his colleagues — have grown the company to become a leading force in the South Korean pharmaceutical industry. Celltrion now boasts a fleet of 2,100 employees, with sales permits in more than 90 countries and revenues exceeding US$1.69b.
JungJin’s entrepreneurial journey started at an early age when he worked as a taxi driver to get himself through Konkuk University in Seoul, South Korea, where he studied industrial engineering.
After he secured a job at Daewoo Motor Co and rose through the ranks, he suddenly lost his job amid the automaker’s financial troubles following the 1997 Asian economic crisis. In the years that followed, he decided to focus on the biopharmaceutical sector, believing that it had the potential to be the next great growth engine.
The launch of Remsima, the “world’s first” antibody biosimilar, catapulted Celltrion to worldwide recognition, bringing attention to South Korea's relatively underdeveloped pharmaceutical sector. Celltrion followed this success with the launch of drugs for breast cancer and lymphoma that are now used worldwide. It also responded to the global pandemic by successfully developing an antibody treatment for COVID-19.
"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. When I first started, my vision was to help patients gain access to safe, effective and affordable medicines and thereby enhance the quality of people’s lives. The success of Celltrion has enabled me to expand on this while finding new ways to fuel my entrepreneurial drive," says JungJin.
Crowning this year’s EY World Entrepreneur Of The Year aside, EY also honoured HRH The Prince of Wales, of the United Kingdom, with an inaugural EY Social Entrepreneurship Award. This award was given in recognition of the tremendous social value created by The Prince of Wales’ leading initiatives, including The Prince’s Trust and Business in the Community, the exciting progress of the bold, global Sustainable Markets Initiative and this year’s unveiling of the Terra Carta, which provides a road map toward putting nature, people and planet at the heart of global value creation over the next decade.
Carmine Di Sibio, EY Global Chairman and CEO, also congratulated both on their achievements.
“After a year of incredible challenges, I’m excited to be able to recognise these two remarkable individuals for their contributions to society. Throughout his life, His Royal Highness has demonstrated an unwavering commitment to building a better world and I couldn’t envision a more worthy honoree for the inaugural EY Social Entrepreneurship Award.
“Likewise, JungJin Seo has spent his career representing everything an unstoppable entrepreneur should be. From taking on the world’s biggest health care challenges to consistently creating long-term value for his company, JungJin is a model EY World Entrepreneur Of The Year winner. Congratulations to both on their worthy distinctions.”
Watch the winner annoucement below:
To find out more about this year's awards, see here.