EX Healthcare is emerging as a notable contender in the bustling landscape of global healthcare startups, which spans from drug development to medical devices and services. Nestled within Pangyo Techno Valley, this venture is gaining traction on the international stage, acquiring certifications such as the FDA OTC, France’s EVE Vegan, and Germany’s Dermatest.
Join us in a dialogue with CEO Lee Yonghee of EX Healthcare, who has successfully launched the ‘DermaFit’ brand, integrating “exosomal miRNA” boosting technology into their healthcare solution, marking a triumphant ingress into the U.S. market.
Hello, I’m Lee Yong-hee, CEO of EX Healthcare. EX Healthcare is a startup that conducts various healthcare-related research and development, ranging from health-functional food and bio-pharmaceuticals to devices, based on an innovative technology called exosomal miRNA boosting technology in our topical healthcare solutions.
Q. Please provide a detailed explanation of EX Healthcare’s core technology, exosomal miRNA boosting technology.
miRNAs are found in our bodies and various plants. These miRNAs are master regulators in controlling and modulating various signals by turning them on and off.
These miRNAs are enclosed within carriers called exosomes and are transported. In the case of our first introduced topical healthcare brand ‘DermaFit,’ we applied a technology that encourages the secretion of specific miRNAs, particularly those regulating muscle loss prevention, which are abundantly pulled into the exosomes secreted from the skin.
Challenging the global market with a differentiated solution that sets us apart from ingestible healthcare products and cosmetics
Q.Despite the variety of cosmetics and dietary supplements available in the market, I’m curious about the background that led to the founding of a topical healthcare solution.
I had been researching in the field of clinical dermatology for several years, and while there were many products aimed at improving the skin’s condition, I found it challenging to come across products that, when applied to the skin, had a positive impact on overall health.
In reality, the skin is one of the largest organs in the human body, located on the outside. Therefore, it’s easy to observe any potential side effects, and due to its large surface area, there are numerous opportunities for utilization. However, it seems that there has been a tendency to view it simply as a ‘barrier’ and focus on skincare products that are beneficial to the skin only.
EX Healthcare was confident that by utilizing this extensive and opportunity-rich skin, we could create a differentiated solution in contrast to the existing oral healthcare products or cosmetics by integrating healthcare solutions with the skin.
For instance, the paradigm that we can treat unconscious individuals or those who have difficulty with oral medication by applying a solution topically is appealing and a core technology that can provide a new direction for solutions. This belief led us to embark on this entrepreneurial journey.
Q. Did you face any challenges in creating a product that didn’t exist in the market before?
It seems that breaking away from conventional thinking can be a significant hurdle when creating a product that didn’t exist before in the entrepreneurial journey. The challenges may be more substantial than one might expect, and there are likely many who share our vision but have difficulty putting it into practice.
While I had been conducting research on skin for an extended period as a researcher, my research had nothing to do with the business. Therefore, the decision to embark on entrepreneurship to materialize it into a product or solution was a significant commitment for me.
EX Healthcare is venturing beyond the traditional paradigm and striving for innovation.
Q.Within a short period of time since its founding, EX Healthcare has obtained numerous certifications and awards. What do you believe are the unique success factors for EX Healthcare?
It seems that the extensive contemplation I had before starting the business served as a solid foundation for achieving quick results. If I had started with just a vague idea that it might work, there would likely have been many trial-and-error experiences. However, I had thought a lot about the risks and trial-and-error before entrepreneurship, and this helped me quickly turn challenges into opportunities and find solutions in the real world.
Q.What advantages do startups have compared to pharmaceutical and healthcare giants in drug development and healthcare?
While decision-making is faster and often easier in startups compared to large corporations, it can be both an advantage and a disadvantage.
It’s likely that I would have been told that proposing an idea within a large corporation wouldn’t have worked. They are already well-established organizations with their own operations, and it’s possible that they couldn’t accommodate just one idea I had in mind.
However, drug development requires a significant amount of time and resources, so I would need to exercise more caution in entrepreneurship. It would also take a long time to gather and consider the opinions of many individuals.
Nevertheless, the advantage can be the potential for a greater impact, and the ability to adapt flexibly while trying something new and breaking away from the existing paradigm is another advantage.
On the flip side, it’s challenging because experienced professionals in this field and experts from various domains need to lead the way, and the scarcity of such experts can pose a difficulty.
EX Healthcare did dream of entering the pharmaceutical field. Initially, it was disheartening to see cancer patients and individuals who couldn’t move due to accidents experiencing muscle loss that worsened and became untreatable. However, we realized that the biopharmaceutical sector requires significant resources and time, and our team lacked the necessary expertise in pharmaceuticals, making it challenging to venture directly into this field.
That’s why our ultimate goal is first to introduce our technology to the public and gain recognition. Then, once we have established ourselves, we can consider branching into the biopharmaceutical field.
Q. What kind of support are you receiving for your business in Pangyo?
I have experienced various programs that support startups in Seongnam and Pangyo. I believe that while material resources and funding are important for startups, building a network and connections with people is equally crucial.
In reality, when it comes to executing and turning an idea into a solution, I believe that building a network with people is crucial for gaining more insights and support. In Pangyo, you have many like-minded individuals with similar challenges and goals, so observing how others tackle problems can provide valuable lessons for everyone.
Furthermore, there are numerous opportunities to learn about relevant support programs and initiatives and to receive significant support to facilitate the growth of EX Healthcare.
EX Healthcare is a company that successfully enters the global market and develops technology for the betterment of society.
Q. I’m curious about the background behind your decision to enter the international market before the domestic market.
Initially, the international market offers larger opportunities and a favorable atmosphere for healthcare and new solutions. Fortunately, in the United States, there is a category known as OTC (Over-the-counter) for products that are both cosmetics and medications. Our product, Dermafit, falls into this category, allowing us to use the term ‘muscle’ and discuss its efficacy. Thanks to this, we could introduce our product to the U.S. market without issues.
The muscle preservation cream primarily targets men in their 30s who invest time and money in exercise, especially those who consume protein powder. These individuals are actively involved in building and maintaining muscle and regularly consume protein powder and various other supplements. We anticipated that there would be a significant market opportunity if we could replace these supplements with a topical application.
In practical terms, when we conducted market validation in the United States, we received responses indicating that even though people had already consumed about five different supplements to build muscle, they were willing to try something additional if it could be applied to the skin.
Furthermore, our potential customer base includes individuals with concerns about the burden or side effects associated with consuming supplements in oral form and female customers.
Q. What will be the next international market you plan to target after the United States?
Our primary focus is on California, which has a hot climate, a preference for exposed clothing, and a high interest in exercise. We plan to target different regions based on their cultural and lifestyle characteristics. For example, in the Eastern U.S., we aim to expand our target audience to a broader age group and offer scientifically validated products tailored to professional occupations.
These categories may have similarities in the Middle Eastern market as well. We are preparing to target specific fitness-focused female groups and provide high-end amenities to hotels or residences.
We also have promising plans for Japan, and we are preparing for our entry into that market.
Q. What is the ultimate goal of EX Healthcare?
The company’s future direction is not just about growing the size of the company but about growing in a direction where we accumulate such innovative technologies within the company and contribute to society with genuinely helpful technologies.
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