BHH Summit Sponsor’s Interview: Novartis

José Marcilla is the General Manager & General Director at Novartis Oncology in Spain. He has extensive international experience, having worked in different countries including the United States, Italy, Argentina and Spain. During his nearly 20 years of experience in the Pharmaceutical Industry he has held various positions with a focus on creating innovative business models and developing leadership in his teams.


Good morning, I’m delighted to interview you as one of our Sponsors for our upcoming event the Barcelona Health Hub Summit 2019. Firstly, could you briefly explain what Novartis does? What is your role within Novartis?

At Novartis our mission is to reimagine medicine to improve and prolong people’s lives. We aspire to approach our activity in a differential way to take medicine in new directions. And to do so, we use innovation-based science and new digital technologies to discover and develop treatments capable of transforming current medical practice and healthcare systems, as well as improving patients’ lives.

Within the company, I have the pleasure of leading the oncology area as CEO in Spain, a task that I receive with passion, not only for the innovations that we have ahead but also for the moment in which we are in the health sector in general.

My purpose in life is to develop leaders to improve the world and that’s why I work at Novartis. Besides, I’m a cure cancer dreamer, something I’m convinced that with everyone’s cooperation, we’ll see someday.

What are your expectations for the future of the health sector? What are you excited about?

We live in a truly exciting moment in the field of health and exponential transformation. We are witnessing a real renaissance in biomedicine caused by a disruptive change in the process of research and development of new medicines. In less than a decade we have gone from pharmaceutical research based on traditional chemistry to biomedical research based on functional genomics. And to this we must add the innovative potential of new digital instruments, such as Big Data, Machine Learning or Artificial Intelligence, among others, that are opening up a wide range of opportunities not only in research but also in the Healthcare.

New cell and gene therapies offer the potential to transform medicine and create a turning point in our ability to treat and even cure. The rise of new technologies and health digital apps, meanwhile, makes us think that treatments are taking new forms completely different from conventional ones.

In regards to oncology specifically, how do you think patient care will change in the future?

Cancer care has already changed dramatically. The advancement of knowledge and technology has allowed to change the natural history of this disease thanks to the development of pioneering platforms and strategies such as immunoncology, targeted therapies, personalized medicine, radioligands or cell or gene therapies. In fact, at Novartis we actively contribute to the development of these lines of research.

New digital technologies offer us endless possibilities and they are changing the healthcare paradigm. Patient care at home, home care, ‘liquid hospitals’ are already part of a distant future thanks to the potential of telemedicine and social media.

In addition, data science is accelerating the metamorphosis of research and development in cancer. At Novartis we have a very active role in the European alliance HARMONY. A pioneering Big Data project applied to health, which will help study and characterize these tumors to develop innovative therapies in blood cancers such as leukemia or lymphoma among others.

How are you collaborating with innovative companies and startups in the sector? What do you think Novartis can offer them? What are you looking for in startups that you want to collaborate with?

We are convinced that the innovation and collaboration binomial will be the key to progress in any sector. Adopting collaborative work models with companies, scientific and medical societies, start-ups is fundamental within our company.

This commitment is firm and we are reflecting this within our organization, guiding our internal culture towards an entrepreneurial culture open to innovation and closer links with the outside world. And here lies a fundamental concept for a large company like Novartis: intra-entrepreneurship. It allows us to stimulate curiosity and inspiration as well as encourage agile working methodologies to be more flexible, efficient and faster in the face of new proposals. This vision also allows us to empower the people who are part of the company and foster a much more unboss culture where we focus on helping employees rather than control, creating an attractive and healthy work environment for all.

And, of course, within this collaborative environment is also framed our partnership with the BHHSummit, which will allow us to be close to the new proposals more specifically within the digital ecosystem of e-health, a priority for a company like Novartis.

You have been a Pioneer in Digital Therapeutics with your collaboration with Pear Therapeutics. How do you think DTx will impact healthcare and the pharma sector in particular?

The extent of the impact of digital therapies is incalculable. As I pointed out earlier, digital therapy is drawing completely different new treatment paradigms.

In this sense, we have pioneered significant investments in various technology platforms that will be catalysts for change for patients. An example it has been digital applications that function as prescription therapies for neurological disorders and other diseases, through collaboration with Pear Therapeutics to develop digital therapy for the treatment of schizophrenia and multiple sclerosis.

What are you looking forward to in the upcoming event, the Barcelona Health Hub Summit 2019?

We want to stay in touch and be part of the companies and the new opportunities of the digital ecosystem, as well as attract talent. We want to discover new digital projects, and accompany them in their implementation, that help us improve the prevention, diagnosis, treatment and adherence of patients. Participating in the Barcelona Health Hub Summit provides us with an excellent framework to accomplish this goal.

What are you most excited about regarding BHHSummit?

We are very excited about our participation in the BHHSummit, as I said, we want to collaborate in an active way with the new proposals that arise from the biosphere of e-health.

This international forum for digital transformation in health will therefore allow us to interact directly with startups in the sector and publicize our efforts to combine innovative science and the power of digital technology and data to create disruptive solutions that help improve people’s lives. And, of course, we will be able to explore synergies and possible alliances with the new proposals of the sector.