Dr. Tae Han Kim is the founding CEO of Samsung Biologics, a world-class contract development and manufacturing organization (CDMO) committed to becoming the most trusted partner to its clients as it works to improve lives through biomedicine.
Dr. Kim has been the founding CEO at Samsung Biologics since the Samsung group diversified into the pharmaceutical industry. He brings to the biopharma industry a wealth of business know-how and innovation through his extensive experience and expertise in various industries.
Samsung Biologics’ customer-oriented business model supports both collaborative novel drug development and high-quality, fast-turnaround contract manufacturing partnerships. Its cutting-edge facility was constructed to be compliant with global cGMP regulations. It provides the infrastructure for partnerships with industry leaders to develop, refine, and manufacture biopharmaceutical products for worldwide distribution. Samsung Biologics pledges to make a difference in global health care
Where did the idea for Samsung Biologics come from?
I am a trend-sensitive person with a varied background and expertise in many fields other than bioscience. My focus has always been on being an industry leader for the next generation, just as Samsung led the global food, textile, and electronics industries. Most recent industries focus heavily on “convenience,” but I would say that industries are starting to shift from valuing convenience to valuing “happiness.” Happiness should be sustainable, and I believe that sustainable happiness is based on health.
As a way of contributing to health, I did heavy research on business models in the biopharma industry. I believe that the late boom in the health care industry has been driven by a pronounced global increase in four primary factors: age, disease, science, and accessibility. Global average life expectancy has gone up to 72 years, 20 years longer than it was in the 1960s. The downside of that is that disease incidence has also gone up. Thankfully, advancements in science and medical breakthroughs have enabled more treatments and patient options for a rising number of diseases. Lastly, the innovation in drug discovery, along with manufacturing scale and efficiencies, have improved accessibility and, consequently, the quality of life for more people than ever before. All of these factors make the industry a very attractive market.
The decision to look specifically into biologics contract manufacturing stemmed from Samsung’s confidence and know-how in clean-room manufacturing technology, accumulated through years of operations as a leader in the tech industry. Samsung’s quality culture and mindset in the engineering construction and maintenance of a contaminant-free environment are a core strength gained from the semiconductor wafer manufacturing business. Years of operations in the tech industry, which includes constructing manufacturing plants of its products, provided a competitive advantage, which enabled the jump-start in the construction, validation, and operation of a world-class drug manufacturing business.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
I start my day with a meditation exercise to set up my mind to live in the present. Let’s say that people spend 30 percent of their lives obsessed with regrets from the past and 30–40 percent worrying about the future; that leaves only about 30 percent of the day to focus on the present. I try to learn from past mistakes instead of regretting them and prepare for the future instead of worrying about it. I try to turn all of my remaining energy to focusing on living the best present moments at full capacity.
How do you bring ideas to life?
To me, “how” to bring ideas to life matters much more than “what” they are. When an idea comes up, I think about it in multiple dimensions before I start. I think about whether the idea is valuable or not in the big picture, why it is valuable, how we could materialize it from a technological perspective, what economical costs and benefits the idea would bring, where it could be applied, and so on. I like to analyze and evaluate everything through research to apply the most appropriate ideas to reality. I especially learn a lot from conversations with experts.
What’s one trend that excites you?
There are two recent trends that really excite me. The first one is the biopharma industry itself. One of the main reasons I became involved in this industry is because of the promise it holds to improve the lives of so many people. One key anticipated area of drug development is Alzheimer’s disease. This has long been of interest to humankind and, needless to say, many companies and investors.
The second trend that excites me is a bit more general. Now more than ever, people are pursuing meaning and happiness in their lives. I’m interested in figuring out how people come to invest and spend money in pursuit of that happiness. It excites many entrepreneurs, including me.
What advice would you give your younger self?
People often end up regretting the wrong choices they made, and my younger self was not much different. I used to think that I chose the wrong major in college. Apparently, I was premature in those days to make an important decision for life, but I would say to my younger self that the actions after the choice, taking responsibility, and moving forward are what change the future, rather than the choice itself. Because I wasn’t satisfied with my major, I could keep myself interested in various fields of studies to quench my thirst for knowledge.
Even now, when I’m in the office as a CEO in an industry that is not related to my initial background and education, I can still channel all of my knowledge from many other fields into my decision-making process. Suffering from regret shouldn’t be an option, so don’t be blinded by the past. Only the present, neither the past nor the future, is what one can change independently. How to follow up in the present with the choices one made in the past can bring a great difference to one’s life.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
When I first said that we would build a biologics manufacturing facility with the largest capacity, I faced a lot of opposition. In 2011, the utilization rate across the industry was under 50 percent, and critics told me that the company wouldn’t be a success. But I focused on the growth dimension, and while nobody could agree with the timing, I could see big potential.
To realize my vision and conviction, Samsung Biologics recruited many global talents and proceeded with expertise and execution. “What and when” are necessary conditions, but “how to execute” is a critical condition for success, and that is what I focus on. I selected and focused on a very specific business model, where I could be more competitive with my best efforts. I focused on growing the business in scale and scope only after making sure of my strengths, advantages, and opportunities over the competition.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
I bought a book just after graduation in 1980. It was “The Third Wave” by Alvin Toffler.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
“Homodeus” by Yuval Harari.
What is your favorite quote?
“The beginning of the real world is TODAY.”
Steve (Stefan) Junge hails from Germany and helps with the day-to-day publishing of interviews on IdeaMensch. While he and Mario don’t share a favorite soccer club, their enthusiasm to help entrepreneurs is a shared passion.