From the moment Lennart Perlhagen met Novocure founder Professor Yoram Palti, Lennart felt inspired by Yoram’s brilliant mind. In 2000, Yoram shared with Lennart his idea of using electric fields to treat cancer. Lennart understood the risk was very high. He knew that it would be an immense challenge to develop an entirely new cancer treatment and to bring it to patients. However, that didn’t stop him.
“I like to invest in new ideas that have the potential to change the world,” Lennart said. “I believe Yoram’s cancer idea was one of those and still is.”
He decided to invest in the concept of Tumor Treating Fields, which led to the founding of Novocure.
“Yoram is full of ideas,” said Lennart, who lives in London. “I invested in it, though I didn’t quite understand the technology. I only knew that Yoram was a brilliant scientist.”
I like to invest in new ideas that have the potential to change the world. I believe Yoram’s cancer idea was one of those and still is.—
Novocure’s First Investor
Lennart recalled the early days of Novocure when he and Yoram began talking about building a company if the first experiments were successful. Then preclinical research began to show that Yoram’s concept worked, and the company began to come to life.
“Working with Yoram is always very exciting because he’s coming up with ideas that are so out of the box – and then you start to see that it’s actually working,” Lennart said. “It’s a lot of excitement.”
In the beginning years, Lennart said, Novocure faced – and overcame – many challenges. To invest in innovative ideas, he said, you have to be an optimist. Lennart helped to raise many rounds of funding. Additionally, he said, Yoram’s driven nature led the company to persevere over the initial hurdles.
“Yoram never gives up,” Lennart said. “He keeps inventing things and solving problems. He was so convinced that this was going to work, and he just kept pushing it.”
Lennart served on Novocure’s board of directors for 15 years until he retired in 2018, helping to guide Novocure as it grew from a preclinical research organization into a global oncology business. He said he feels very satisfied that his initial investment in Novocure helped the company become what it is today. He recognized the value that Novocure may bring to shareholders, the many jobs that have been created and Novocure’s mission of striving to extend survival in some of the most aggressive forms of cancer.
One of the most satisfying aspects of his involvement in Novocure, he said, was working with Yoram. Yoram and Lennart continue to collaborate today on other projects and talk every day.
“It is tremendously satisfying to be involved in creating something from just an ember, from an idea, that doesn’t exist in the real world, and to see it grow,” Lennart said. “Yoram is fantastic. He is a very unique person.”
Yoram recognized the magnitude of Lennart’s initial investment in Novocure more than 20 years ago.
“Lennart’s willingness to take an extremely high risk – based on trust and friendship – made it all possible.”