Above: Pictured from left to right are Byung-Geon (B.G.) Rhee, Michael Deem, and Edgar O’Rear
This year the Rice University Department of Bioengineering’s Edgar O’Rear Lectureship, held Nov. 16, honored the milestones achieved over the 20 years since its founding and provided incisive looks at pathways toward global medical innovation. Byung-Geon (B.G.) Rhee, chairman of the Korea Biotechnology Industry Organization (Korea BIO) and president of Green Cross Holdings Corporation, presented on the Korean biopharmaceutical industry and Green Cross’ globalization strategy toward the developing and manufacturing of biotherapeutics to improve the quality of life for people with rare and serious diseases.
Also present at this year’s event was lectureship benefactor Edgar A. O’Rear III, who is the Francis W. Winn Professor for Chemical, Biological and Materials Engineering, and co-founder of the Institute for Applied Surfactant Research at the University of Oklahoma. O’Rear, a Rice alumnus with both a bachelor’s (1975) and doctorate degree (1981) in chemical engineering, specializes in the areas of transport in biomedical systems and surfactants to investigate thrombolysis or the dissolution of blood clots by encapsulated plasminogen activators. His group was the first to show reduced reperfusion times with encapsulation and to elucidate the mechanism of accelerated thrombolysis.
“Since 1999, the O’Rear Lectureship has brought distinguished speakers to the Rice campus as part of its colloquia series and to meet with faculty and students,” said Michael Deem, the John W. Cox Professor of Biochemical and Genetic Engineering, professor of physics and astronomy. “We were thrilled have one of our most distinguished and successful alumni give this honorary lecture.”
Rhee, who earned his doctorate in chemical and biomedical engineering from Rice under Larry McIntire’s direction in 1986, has amassed three decades of experience in executive-level management and in bringing innovative new technologies from clinical trials to mainstream medical practice.
During his talk, Rhee reflected on Korea’s established global leadership in a number of industries - electronics, shipbuilding, and automotive. Despite many difficulties, he sees a future growth engine for the Korean biopharmaceutical industry due to heavy investments in research and development. He also linked much of Korea’s rapid industrial success, rise in innovation and economic development to the education system.
“South Korea has the most number of cities with a population of over one million people, and one of the fastest growing healthcare markets in the world,” said Rhee. “The South Korean health care market share will reach 26 percent in 2016.”
As president of Green Cross, Rhee coordinates the overall business strategies of 20 affiliated companies located in South Korea, China, Canada and the United States that specialize in pharmaceutical, healthcare, and biomedical research and development. He is also a member of Stemedica Cell Technologies’ board of directors, and fellow and auditor of the National Academy of Engineering Korea.
Prior to Green Cross, Rhee founded the biopharmaceutical company Expression Genetics, Inc. in 2002, and served as CEO. He has also served as Samyang Corporation’s pharmaceutical business unit head and LG Chem’s drug-development division head.
Rhee also has a Master of Science and a Bachelor of Science in chemical engineering from the Seoul National University in Korea.