CEO of the Life Science division of LG – one of Korea most recognized global brands – Dr Jeewoong Son has spent much of his career gathering the knowhow to bring successful drug development to Korea.
“I began my career as physician in internal medicine before moving to a Medical Director position in the pharmaceutical industry. I then switched to a research position at AstraZeneca. My goal was to learn and build expertise across the value chain to be able to transform an idea into a product and finally bring that product to market,” recalls Son.
Korea had no track record of successfully bringing new drugs to the local and global market, with the notable exception of LG Life Sciences
Dr Son’s experience in drug development was somewhat unconventional. “I moved from medical affairs to late-phase development, then early-phase development before delving into the drug discovery process. In a way, I walked along the drug development pathway in reverse,” he remarks.
Even while working at other companies, he acknowledged the strengths that LG possessed in comparison to other Korean firms. “Korea had no track record of successfully bringing new drugs to the local and global market, with the notable exception of LG Life Sciences,” he asserts.
This made a move to LG imperative if he was to involve himself in innovative Korean projects capable of succeeding. “The local pharmaceutical industry only had pieces of the puzzle, but not the complete picture. When I joined the industry, Korea already boasted good scientists in the life sciences-related fields. However, because of a lack of expertise in new drug development, most early-research ideas did not see the light of day.”
Dr Son finally took a position at LG Chem which acquired LG Life Sciences in 2017, appointing him as president. LG Life Sciences has traditionally developed vaccines and pioneered genetic engineering in the 1980s. Under Son, the next stage is to develop biologics. He expounds, “we have already launched a new DPP-4 inhibitor, the fifth of its kind on the global market. We also have a portfolio of dermo-cosmetics such as Yvoire, a hyaluronic acid filler, which is leading the Chinese market,” states Son.
Rather than seeing LG as a closed entity, Son is very much dedicated to using open innovation to bring the company to the next level. “I wish to strengthen our R&D ability by expanding open innovation and new drug development in immunology, oncology, diabetes, and related metabolics,” he envisages. Son continues, “In the past LG was more concerned about building its own R&D capabilities to be able to do everything in-house, but from now on I am adopting a more flexible open-innovation approach working through strategic win-win partnerships. In order to be the best, you must surround yourself with the best.”