- 2 years ago
7 July 2021
Korean-born Cecilia Sung is the Country Manager for biopharma company Celltrion Healthcare in Australia and New Zealand. Sri Lankan-born Anthony Boteju was her first employee in Australia. In two years, Celltrion has grown to 15 employees and launched three biosimilars on the PBS with plans for much more.
Cecilia: I studied culture and art management and started my career as an intern journalist as was recommended by my professor. Journalism sounded interesting and a good opportunity to understand and meet people, and to engage them with art. When I was searching for my next job, I saw potential in working for a biopharmaceutical company.
Celltrion was a new company in Korea; most of the Korean pharmaceutical industry was focusing on generic or chemical drugs, but Celltrion wanted to launch a biosimilar. It was quite a pioneer and I wanted to be involved; I wanted to be a part of it.
I found Celltrion really interesting as I felt I could grow up with this company but it was quite challenging because I didn’t have a science or pharma background. Now I’ve been working with Celltrion for over 10 years and I’m really enjoying it – I honestly feel it’s an honour to be on this journey.
I started in Mexico in charge of Latin America. At that stage, we were more focused on business development and understanding the market and how we would operate in those markets. That was our focus. I spoke Spanish so I made an appointment with every stakeholder and person to understand both the market and how we could do business there.
After I established the first business in Mexico, I moved to Europe. We launched three biosimilar products in Europe, the first being an intravenous biosimilar infliximab product with multiple commercial partners.
Celltrion established our Australian entity in 2018 and Anthony was our first employee. He started working with me in 2019. I was quite new to the Australian market and I wanted to find someone who had enough experience and knowledge of this market and was also experienced with biosimilars. Now, we are moving quite fast and getting bigger; we are growing quickly.
Anthony is a really committed person and, with his commercial acumen, he knows how to operate in this market. He really helps me a lot. He knows how to position us in this market. With his expertise and enthusiasm, he has helped me establish our company in Australia.
I think I have the best people in my team. Fortunately, I could hire experts in each area and I strongly believe that we have the best team ever and I have no doubts about our future.
All markets are quite different with different conditions, pricing, or government policies. In Australia, I feel just offering a product with the same conditions as another is not enough; adding value is quite important. We want to be different from the rest.
I define myself as a challenger. I always want to do something new and find solutions to problems. This is the longest period I’ve spent being a part of one company, but I enjoy working with Celltrion because every day is a new challenge and we have to fix new problems.
Anthony: I’m originally from Sri Lanka but I moved to Australia as a permanent resident 15 years ago. My career has been in pharmaceuticals from Day One.
I have worked in both generic and branded pharmaceuticals and the biosimilar domains. Since moving to Australia, I have worked with companies like GSK, Hospira and Pfizer and Baxter – I was the regional lead for generic injectables and biosimilars for Pfizer in the APAC region.
When the opportunity came up, I decided to join Celltrion. With my background in biosimilars, I felt I could utilise my experience and skills to help establish and grow the business.
With Celltrion, I feel I was in the right place at the right time. I did my homework and I realised the potential Celltrion had, both on a regional as well as a global scale, and knew this was the right company to join. Until very recently, Celltrion did not have a direct presence and operated through local distributors like Hospira in Australia.
For the first couple of weeks, it was just Cecilia and myself. We utilised a shared office space before we found an office in York Street about a month after I joined, then we started recruiting more colleagues, with Antonio Capezio joining as our second local employee as Head of Commercial. During the last two years, we have grown from a modest employee base to where we are today. Most of the team growth has happened in the last six to nine months because of the impending launch of Remsima SC.
Cecilia is an excellent troubleshooter and that seems to be the reason Celltrion decided to send her to a market like Australia, which is not as straightforward as some of the European markets. Every time there’s a challenge with PBS listings, pricing or other regulatory challenges, she’s open to everyone’s feedback. She acts like a breaker between the local entity and our head office. She’s also very good at assembling the right team together to come up with the right solution.
Cecilia doesn’t ever take no for an answer. She has lots of business development experience under her belt from other international markets and uses it to make sure Celltrion succeeds in Australia in every aspect.