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Driving change: Enrico Cañal Bruland

The company name may be the one on everyone’s lips when it comes to revolutionary weight-loss drugs, but Novo Nordisk Pharma (Thailand) is about so much more. General Manager and Vice President Enrico Cañal Bruland pours his heart and soul into transforming the lives of patients and employees alike.

Novo Nordisk Thailand

When Cañal Bruland joined Novo Nordisk’s ranks as a graduate trainee in 2009, the pharmaceutical company was far from being the household name it is today.

Since its diabetes and obesity medications exploded onto the world scene in the last two years, Novo Nordisk has become one of the leading players in the global pharmaceutical industry.

But despite the company’s relative obscurity 15 years ago, it already had a strong reputation as a people-centric employer in Denmark.

“My educational background was in business administration and management,” Cañal Bruland explains. “I thought, ‘Wow, this seems to be a really great company to work for. And the pharma stuff, I’m going to figure that out along the way’.”

Cañal Bruland did more than just figure it out – he excelled at it. Over the past 15 years, he has climbed the ladder at Novo Nordisk in six different countries.

After working in Switzerland, Germany and Denmark, Cañal Bruland went to Canada to help launch Novo Nordisk’s obesity drug there.

“It was a high-risk, high-reward move,” he explains. “Canada was the second country in the world where we launched our obesity medication and we didn’t really know if the project would take off. But it did and obesity is a really big area for us today. I was an early bird without knowing what I’d signed up for at that point in my career.”

When his work in Canada was done, Cañal Bruland headed back to Europe to accelerate the growth of Novo Nordisk’s Spanish division. Amidst the turbulence of the COVID-19 pandemic, he played an instrumental role in bringing the organization back to double digit growth and focusing on new innovative product launches in 2021.

Constant development

Cañal Bruland’s next challenging opportunity came in October 2022 when he accepted the position of General Manager and Vice President of Novo Nordisk Pharma (Thailand).

“Novo Nordisk is celebrating 100 years and we’ve been in Thailand for almost 40 years,” he says. “Even here in Thailand, the obesity rates are skyrocketing, so it’s a big opportunity for us to make a difference for people living with obesity.”

While the company was originally founded by a renowned Danish scientist and Nobel Prize laureate, who was desperately seeking treatment for his wife’s type 1 diabetes, Cañal Bruland sees Novo Nordisk’s extension into the obesity space as a lateral move.

Novo Nordisk Thailand

“Novo Nordisk is celebrating 100 years and we’ve been in Thailand for almost 40 years.”

“The innovation we have in obesity is very much related to the innovation in diabetes, so it’s an adjacent therapy,” he acknowledges. “The knowledge we generated in diabetes is helping us move into obesity, and in the five-year time horizon we’re going to get closer and closer to cardiovascular disease because it’s also related to diabetes and obesity.

“So, it’s another step in that development cascade that’s opening us up to serve more patients and improve more lives in Thailand. We’ll also continue focusing on our rare disease area. It’s a small group of patients that we serve, but it’s very relevant.”

Making people the focus

To achieve its vision, Novo Nordisk Pharma (Thailand) invests heavily in research and development. “Almost 10 percent of the organization I lead works in clinical development,” explains Cañal Bruland. “That’s a lot of people, a lot of investment and a lot of clinical trials we’re running to help patients that may not have any alternatives. That’s something I’m very proud of.

“We’re also running the Affordability Project where we have a partnership with the government to make access to insulin easier and more affordable for people living in more remote areas.

Novo Nordisk Thailand

“Novo Nordisk is a company you go to, not a company you come from.”

“Our focus is on driving change. That means driving change for people living with disease, but also driving change of the system as a whole and figuring out how we can make it more sustainable and environmentally friendly.”

With Novo Nordisk topping the 2023 lists of ‘Best Places to Work in Thailand’ and ‘Best Places to Work for Women in Thailand’, the company’s dedication to creating an industry-leading company culture has been recognized for the fourth year in a row.

“Novo Nordisk is a company you go to, not a company you come from,” Cañal Bruland says. “We care for our employees and offer plenty of opportunities for growth. Most people who come here love it and want to stay. They feel the passion and the purpose, and our success mostly has to do with our people.

“At the end of the day, we’re here to help people live a better life.”

Fast facts

  • Novo Nordisk employs more than 59,000 people in 80 affiliates around the world and markets its products in 170 countries.
  • The pharmaceutical company is best known for producing pharmaceutical products that are used to treat diabetes and obesity. It also distributes medications that treat growth disorders and hemophilia.
  • Novo Nordisk’s ultimate goal is to find an innovative solution for people living with other serious chronic diseases.