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Korea Business Leaders Alliance (KBLA) Interview

Medical devices have entered the era of customized or personalized devices, 3D printed devices and wearable technologies.

Young Cheigh

Shaping the development of the medical device ecosystem for the generations to come.

Thank you for taking the time to do this interview. Tell us a little a bout your background and yourself.

I spent the early part of my career working in the US, Mexico, Korea and Australia for Motorola in International Manufacturing Support Group for Asia Pacific and Latin America, I then settled down in Korea where I cofounded a patent law firm which, in the 20 years of operation, became an internationally renowned firm with a global client base.

Today, I wear a couple of different hats. I am still active in the field of IP in my role as President of AskLaw Moon Korea and U.S.A and additionally have diversified into the field of Biotechnology as Chairman of InnovaMed which is an Australian based medical device consulting company specialising in product development, manufacturing and commercialisation.

What brought you in the medical device field?

Working in the area of IP, I come across many different types of technologies across many disciplines. Over the past decade I have witnessed an increasing trend in the patents filed in the areas of medical devices and medical technology. Further, the Korean government has been investing heavily in the biotech and medical device space to boost the medical ecosystem within Korea.

Seeing this trend and working so closely with startups, SMEs, entrepreneurs and healthcare professionals, I identified an unmet need in several of these medical device companies. They simply did not have the resources, infrastructure, nor the capability to develop globally marketable medical technology.

As Korea was still in its infancy as a medical device development nation, the devices may have been adequate for the local market, it did not quite meet the standards to be an international player. A significant portion of medical devices in Korea, particularly high end devices, are imported. Thus, I wanted to utilise my business development skills and leverage my global networks I had built over my career to try and advance Korean medical technology up the value chain.

Korea is now in the sights of medical device giants such as the US, EU and Australia as an attractive partner for collaboration and trade.

How would you explain the rapid development of the Korean Medical Device market?

As I mentioned, Korea is still in its infancy, however with the support from the government to nurture the medical device ecosystem, Korea has made several leaps forward. Although there is still a long way to go, Korea is now in the sights of medical device giants such as the US, EU and Australia as an attractive partner for collaboration and trade.

Korea is a nation which has always prided itself on having world leading technology and know-how, however once they began to reach out and look beyond its borders and engage a ‘collaborative’ mind set, the progression of technological knowhow has made even more rapid progress.

Do you feel any restrictions or obstacles in the development of your industry in Korea?

As with a lot of different industries, there are regulations and controls. Medical device approvals is a key focus and efforts are being made with trying to harmonize the medical device regulatory process around the world. Standardising and harmonising this process will significantly improve and speed the process of bringing new therapies to those in need. The Asian Harmonisation Working Party (of which Korea is a part of) is collaborating with the International Medical Device Regulators Forum (IMDRF) in an effort to bring about medical device regulatory convergence.

Apart from the regulatory aspects, broadly speaking, Korea is a great country to do business in, however the cultural difference can be an obstacle for many overseas organisations. It takes deep understanding and persistence in being able to build the trust, however once you establish your rapport the business will essentially build itself.

Is there a place for innovation and new comers in this ultra-competitive markets?

People are very innovative and inventive creatures. There really does not seem to be any bounds to what the human mind can conjure up. Just when you think that there is no other way to improve or change something, someone always thinks up a unique solution. It is ever evolving and changing which is why companies invest so heavily into R&D.

Further, partnering with universities which is a bank of ideas helps organisations stay ahead of the latest and greatest advancements in processes, materials and technologies.

Yes, this medical device space is very competitive and crowded but being such a dynamic environment there is always room for innovation and newcomers. For new comers, the key is partnering with the right organisation.

What are the innovations to come that could be a game changer for your industry?

I believe we have already entered the era of game changers in our industry. Medical devices have entered the era of customised or personalised devices, 3D printed devices and wearable technologies. I believe the biggest and most significant development in progress currently is the ‘Internet of things’. It has changed the way devices, patients and healthcare professional communicate and the way that patient specific therapies are being derived. However, as I mentioned earlier, innovation is so dynamic and one can only wonder what the human mind can come up with next.

How has being a woman has been an obstacles or a strength in your career?

The reality is that my career was being built during times when women perhaps didn’t have the same opportunity or voice as men. Although this can be seen as an obstacle, I shielded myself from the gender profiling and the generalisations and focused on building myself into a strong leader.

I am of the belief that strengths or weaknesses should not be profiled based on ones gender but on ones capability as a person. It is my resume which spans both eastern and western cultures which helps me work seamlessly across borders and is the value which I add to organisations. This is my strength, but I don’t believe it comes down to the fact that I am a woman. I think it has just come from hard work and persistence.

Anything else you would like to share with us?

As an Australian citizen residing in Korea, I wear my heart on my sleeve and am very focused on seeing stronger ties being built within the Korean – Australian biotechnology community. Both Korea and Australia have provided me with wonderful opportunities over the past few decades and I would like to be able to give something back to help continue the growth of the medical device ecosystem for the generations to come.


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