Early in his medical device sales career, Brian Driscoll observed a brain biopsy. After leaving the operating theater to examine a tumor tissue sample, a pathologist returned and announced the patient had glioblastoma (GBM).
Brian felt the mood change in the room. The banter stopped, and everyone’s demeanor stiffened. A neurosurgeon sighed deeply.
Let’s close, he said flatly. This patient is not going to live long.
The experience nagged at Brian. He felt drawn to helping patients who face such a bleak prognosis and began reading about brain tumor therapies. Tumor Treating Fields (TTFields) intrigued him, and when the opportunity arose in 2017 to interview at Novocure, he connected with our commercial leaders’ passion and patient-forward focus.
Brian, based in Kentucky, was promoted to Mid-Atlantic Regional Business Manager in January 2022. In his previous role as a National Thought Leader Liaison (TLL), he engaged leading physicians and academics who influence how their peers practice medicine. He educated them on the efficacy and safety of TTFields as a noninvasive cancer therapy. Driving awareness and acceptance isn’t always easy. It requires consistent, persistent communication.
Determined to help address the significant unmet clinical need for GBM patients, Brian tailors his approach to each healthcare provider he tries to reach. This requires thorough research and attention to detail. When Brian was promoted to National TLL in June 2020, commercial leaders challenged him to make headway at an institution that hadn’t prescribed Novocure’s therapy to a patient in years.
Making cold calls, Brian said, doesn’t always provide a high rate of return. But it can be effective, and in this case, he managed to craft a friendly introduction to a physician that he identified as potentially receptive. The physician responded and ultimately pursued certification of Novocure’s cancer therapy. He has since prescribed Novocure’s cancer therapy for GBM to multiple patients.
“There are tough days where you’re like, ‘It would be easier to just not make this call,’” Brian said. “But at the end of the day, I have a responsibility to help bring this therapy to patients who could benefit from it.”
Developing and commercializing an innovative cancer therapy is hard work. Novocure employees face many challenges as we, together with patients, strive to extend survival in some of the most aggressive forms of cancer. But our clarity of purpose — making a difference in the lives of cancer patients — drives us to move our mission forward.
Over the past few years, Catherine “Caileigh” Olds, a Senior Device Support Specialist (DSS) in Michigan, has repeatedly volunteered to help streamline and update internal processes so her colleagues can spend more time and energy supporting patients.
Caileigh stepped up to be a Virtual DSS at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic and provided critical feedback as the team figured out how to conduct new patient starts virtually. Additionally, she contributed to the rollout of MyLink, a pivotal software innovation enabling patients to download device usage data without needing an in-person visit by a DSS.
Working directly with patients and caregivers, Caileigh said, is a privilege. They invite her into their lives, introducing loved ones and confiding in her about their cancer diagnoses. They share minor news, like a photo of their new puppy, and major news, such as a clean MRI scan.
Early in her DSS career, Caileigh worked with a patient in her early 30s, about her age.
The patient, a mother of six, approached treatment with a resolve and sense of empowerment that moved Caileigh. She didn’t complain about shaving her head or how our therapy made childcare more difficult. She appreciated having some control over her treatment.
Let’s do this, she told Caileigh. If this gives me a chance to live longer, then I’m all about it.
The patient’s outlook had a lasting impact on Caileigh’s perspective and approach to her job. Driving back from a patient’s Upper Peninsula, Michigan, home in a late-night snow squall becomes a more surmountable challenge when you consider the challenges others go through.
“It was such a tricky, difficult situation for (the patient), but she was so positive, and so determined not to be slowed down,” Caileigh said. “Her attitude was one of those reality checks that really stick with you.”
The courage of DSSs like Caileigh, who develop close relationships with very sick patients, inspires Cyril Puc, Director of Market Access and Public Affairs in France.
Cyril also marvels at the dedication of longtime Novocure leaders who have invested considerable time and resources on TTFields despite the challenges of developing and commercializing a cutting-edge technology.
Cyril Puc, Director of Market Access and Public Affairs in France, is driven to figure out the best route for introducing Novocure’s technology to patients in new markets.
“After 10, 15, 20 years, many employees are still here. They still believe,” Cyril said. “This is something that gets me out of bed in the morning.”
Cyril left a larger company to join Novocure in June 2020. In the fourth decade of his career, he wanted to work for a company that prioritizes innovation and human relations.
Cyril likens his market access role to land surveying for roadway construction. He’s figuring out the best route for introducing Novocure’s technology to patients in new markets. He navigates regulatory challenges and unfamiliarity with TTFields among insurers and healthcare providers.
Cyril’s manager, Justin Kelly, Vice President of Global Market Access, has called him “The Persuader” because of his dogged persistence. Cyril’s efforts have helped advance the reimbursement negotiation process with French health authorities and raise awareness among influential healthcare providers and patient advocacy groups.
Cyril acknowledges that he must manage his passion, and he appreciates his diplomatic manager’s support.
“Market access is a very challenging job,” Cyril said. “We collaborate with a lot of internal and external stakeholders as we negotiate with health authorities. We have to all work together and communicate very directly to be sure that everything is well understood and acceptable.
But you see, that is the beauty of our company — we have so many people who enjoy the challenge and enjoy what they do. We believe in our therapy.—
Director of Market Access and Public Affairs in France
Alon Levy’s first manager at Novocure trusted him to take on challenging work from day one.
Hired as a Supplier Quality Engineer, Alon was tasked with coordinating the qualification and manufacturing of the first tan transducer arrays for patients with GBM. The goal was to create arrays that would blend in better with most patients’ skin tones than the original white arrays. Run with it, Alon’s manager, Gonen Shor, told him and project co-coordinator Roei Hermon, New Product Introduction (NPI) Manager.
Alon, based in Israel, was at first overwhelmed by unexpected technical issues and the operational difficulties of the project. But he and his colleagues persisted, and with a bit of adaptation and outside-of-the-box thinking, they found a workaround. Novocure launched the tan arrays in Europe in 2018, and in late 2019, following a two-year FDA approval process, we began offering the arrays in the United States.
In a survey of 25 GBM patients, most found the tan arrays less conspicuous than the white arrays. In his own conversations with patients, Alon realized the product enhancement seemed to make a real difference in how patients embraced the therapy.
“It was amazing to see how much patients were really looking forward to this,” Alon said. “I realized that I’d made a small but very meaningful contribution to the patients’ lives.”
Alon understands cancer’s devastating impact all too well. His infant son was diagnosed with brain cancer during Alon’s first year with Novocure. He passed away about 18 months later, at just 2 years old.
Alon was moved by his colleagues’ support throughout his son’s illness. Even Dr. Yoram Palti, Novocure’s founder, and Mike Ambrogi, Senior Technology Fellow, reached out, and Alon remembers consulting with a member of Novocure’s One Medical team in the middle of the night. Gonen and Israel Human Resources Director Hadas Artsi insisted he take all the time he needed and not worry about his work.
His colleagues’ sincere empathy “created a commitment internally for me,” Alon said. After his son’s death, Alon said he returned to work more motivated than ever.
Alon is now a Project Manager building a New Product Management team. As Novocure commercializes our TTFields therapy, he helps ensure the manufacturing team can handle future growth.
The supportive culture at our Haifa research center has energized Roni Blatt, too.
The daughter of a former Novocure biologist, Roni first joined the company in 2008 and worked as a student research assistant while pursuing her own biology degree. She later left Novocure to pursue a master’s degree and returned once she’d attained it. She counts among her mentors Rosa Shnaiderman, Novocure’s first employee and now a Biomedical Fellow, and Moshe Giladi, Vice President of Preclinical Research. They have helped her sharpen her research skills and support her in areas where she struggles, like spelling.
“Everything I know, the person I have become, is thanks to the people here,” Roni said.
Roni, a Preclinical Studies Project Leader, grasps the direct impact of her work for patients and relishes the opportunity to work alongside like-minded colleagues. She appreciates how accessible the company’s lead scientists have remained even as the company has grown.
The possibilities for TTFields seem endless, Roni said. She feels like she will never have enough time to test all the team’s ideas.
“Every morning I wake up eager to get back to the lab and continue my work,” she said.
Roni spends long hours in Novocure’s Animal Facility conducting and managing experiments testing the safety and efficacy of delivering TTFields at various intensities and via next-generation arrays. A recently hired researcher expressed surprise that Novocure didn’t outsource laborious animal prep. Company scientists, Roni explained, still manage the work in order to ensure the integrity of their studies.
“It’s really hard, but really rewarding,” Roni said.
Like Cyril, Roni’s challenge is moderating her drive and maintaining balance. Her supportive husband and three children help keep her grounded, she said. So does exercising for one hour each morning, no matter how strong the lab’s pull.
Chris Van Riesen also uses athletics to recharge. Though his days as a competitive amateur tennis player are behind him, Chris still plays soccer and is an avid boxer, cyclist and runner.
Chris’ love of healthy competition has fostered his professional drive. The Switzerland-based Director of EMEA Operations lives by tennis icon Billie Jean King’s mantra, “Pressure is a Privilege.”
Chris relishes high stakes and great expectations, and says they help him focus.
“If you’re in a situation where you feel pressure, it means you have achieved something and are continuing to grow,” he said. “Embracing challenges is how you learn and develop. If you can’t welcome difficult situations, you will struggle with a lot of important moments in life.”
Chris is among the leaders who have been innovating our global supply chain to prepare for anticipated growth in the next few years. If new indications earn regulatory approval and Novocure can help more patients, we will need scalable processes and partnerships in place to deliver our therapy to patients efficiently and reliably.
Since joining Novocure in November 2020, Chris has successfully drafted a Global Transport Strategy. He’s now overseeing its implementation. There’s a lot of work to complete, and the clock is ticking. Chris motivates employees to meet the challenge by fostering a positive culture of continual learning.
Seeing employees realize their potential, Chris said, drives him to continue his own journey of growth, particularly as a manager.
In my opinion, the opportunities for learning and development are endless.—
Chris Van Riesen
Director of EMEA Operations
During a family vacation this spring to Gulf Shores, Alabama, Brian was relaxing on the beach when a woman approached him. She asked if he would take a photo of her extended family, including a young man in a wheelchair, sitting nearby.
We’ve been postponing this trip for months because of the pandemic, she told Brian. I’m so thankful my son could still make it. Her son had been diagnosed with GBM about a year before. This was possibly his final family vacation.
In the ensuing conversation, Brian realized he already knew her son and his wife, who were also from Kentucky. The previous summer, at the request of a mutual acquaintance, Brian had spoken to them about TTFields, which their oncologist had recommended. They had decided to try the treatment.
The serendipitous encounter on the beach, Brian said, was one of the most memorable and gratifying experiences of his life.
“We have the potential to give patients more quality time with their families, more time with their kids, more time to just live their lives,” he said.