Working with the purpose of changing lives

Philip Jonas Sassene explains how working in Oral Formulation Research, sharing a higher purpose with colleagues and helping others through his research gives him tremendous satisfaction.

Philip Jonas Sassene
Philip Jonas Sassene

Finding purpose and meaning in our day-to-day work, sharing goals with colleagues, and unlocking our full potential through means that benefit society or individuals can provide tremendous satisfaction.

This was most certainly the case with Philip Jonas Sassene, one of our senior scientists working in our Oral Formulation Research Department. Like many in his field of expertise, when Philip finished his PhD from the University of Copenhagen in 2016, he had ambitions of finding employment in the pharmaceutical sector. However, Philip had more than his own ambitions in mind. He wanted to truly help people and work at a company that was dedicated to that same cause.

"I decided that I wanted to work for a company that was more responsible than what you might traditionally see in the pharma industry. I wanted to work for a company where the moral compass was pointed in the right direction, so to speak. Not a company that was driven by profit, but somewhere that was very purpose-driven.

Novo Nordisk was early in its oral formulation journey around the time I applied, and I thought that was very exciting because I had a lot of expertise in the oral field. In addition, I could further expand my own understanding in the field while simultaneously helping patients."

Starting with a clear direction

As a Dane, Philip was familiar with the Novo Nordisk name—a company that has been a part of Danish society for nearly a century. He knew that Novo Nordisk was uniquely specialised in working with macromolecules—tailoring them to respond to diabetes, haemophilia, and rare endocrine disorders. In addition, he knew that Novo Nordisk had strong ambitions for oral therapies.

Utilising his skills in finding better ways to bring those two specialities together, developing methods of delivering macromolecules treatments through oral therapies, seemed like a perfect fit to Philip. And doing so in a way that would help better the lives of patients made working at Novo Nordisk even more promising.

"One of the issues I saw, for example, was with diabetes. Often when doctors recommend that patients begin injectable insulin treatments, some people become hesitant—maybe due to a fear of needles. Because of this, these patients might end up starting their treatment too late in their disease, and they end up getting suboptimal treatment.

I saw the potential to work with Novo Nordisk to make macromolecule treatments like GLP-1 or insulin treatments orally available so that patients could begin their treatments faster, and doctors could prescribe it sooner. This approach, of course, would contribute to a better quality of life for patients, and less of a burden on the hospital system."

On a path to purpose

Four years down the line and this specific research is precisely what Philip is doing in our Oral Formulation department. Working closely with his team in Copenhagen, collaborating daily with another Novo Nordisk research team in China, and balancing his day with meetings with various stakeholders in his research, there is a lot that goes into the work that Philip does.

That said, there is even more that comes out of his work—both in terms of the development of translating injectable medicines into an oral format, but also what he, himself, gets out of working with a diverse yet like-minded group of scientists all sharing the same purpose: Developing oral formulation science, and changing the lives of patients.

A community with a shared vision

When we asked Philip about his thoughts on what it was like to work in such an environment, he expressed a sense of contentment in the freedom for ideation and experimentation—even between colleagues with such a broad spectrum of expertise and disciplines.

"In our department, I have a lot of colleagues with a myriad of different backgrounds. It's a very multi-national department, so it's very inspiring to see the variety of ideas and creativity that come out of it. We're only 18 people, and I think there are ten different nationalities; All of us are experts in the field of oral delivery, but with different competencies in formulation, characterisation and analysis. You could say we are quite a diverse flock."

Philip went on to describe what it was like to work in a company where his research was shared across various departments, spread across multiple areas of the globe. He explained that it made his sense of purpose even more tangible.

"One of the great things about the community in Novo Nordisk is that it is quite easy to communicate across departments. Even though there are a lot of experts across many different disciplines, and in many different parts of the world, we all share a collective sense of purpose. It makes it possible for people to transcend their specific knowledge-base and come together to not only deliver products that make a difference, but also identify new opportunities that emerge when these different sciences and expertise intersect."

New opportunities are definitely what Novo Nordisk is investing in when it comes to the work of Philip and his colleagues in Oral Formulation, as the benefits to patients with diabetes and endocrine disorders are overwhelming. And this patient benefit is something that resonates deeply with Philip.

In speaking with him, it becomes clear that Philip's vision of his work and his future is one that is deeply entangled in the same fundamental value and purpose that has also driven Novo Nordisk for nearly 100 years—that the patient should be at the centre of everything that he does.

Learn more about the Oral Formulation Research Department right here