Editor’s note: This story is part of our 2022 PharmaVoice 100 feature.
Throughout her career, Dominique Demolle has strived to answer a complex question: What can we be doing differently to empower and improve the drug development process? What was missing, she realized, was patient psychology data, which directly influences placebo response, trial compliance and medication adherence, while also pushing the envelope of personalized medicine.
In 2013, Demolle teamed up with two colleagues and strived to answer this question with a new venture called Tools4Patient, which was later renamed Cognivia. As Demolle’s vision took shape, her nominator says she ensured a high-standard infrastructure — from a quality system to IT security — all while working on a shoe-string startup budget.
Today, the company’s solution, Placebell, leverages AI capabilities to predict placebo responses, which it says can decrease and variability while boosting the reliability of the study’s results. According to her nominator, the platform has been tested and refined in clinical trials across multiple therapeutic areas and is “propelling the industry towards the next great frontier — psychonomics — to enable truly personal-to-the-individual medicine.”
“We started with a dream, a crazy idea, the holy grail of quantifying the placebo response and we are now moving to other predictive tools.”
Although Cognivia is the manifestation of her bold vision, Demolle says she’s not a controlling person. Here, the CEO explains her leadership style and how she’s paying her success forward.
PharmaVoice: What is your blue ocean?
Dominique Demolle: At Cognivia, we are the first and only organization to integrate the psychological component of the patient in the equation of interpreting drug efficacy and improvement of clinical trial conduct. We really put the patient at the center. We started with an idea, the holy grail of quantifying the placebo response, and we are now moving to other predictive tools. I dream about our Placebell method and our future predictive tools being ‘prescribed’ in every trial to limit failure and speed development.
How would you describe your leadership style?
As much as possible, I communicate to the team our overall goals and path forward to implement the strategy. I lead by directing but I am more of a team player, guiding and encouraging our staff to come up with the best approach. I’ve learned over time to manage transparently with frequent communication. This helps everyone maintain focus on the big picture. I admit that I have areas of improvement that I am working on every day. By nature, I trust others and as I am not a controlling person, I delegate — but I lose trust easily after one mistake. Last but not least I do not tolerate lack of professional honesty.
What’s the most meaningful item on your desk or in your office, and why?
My notebook. I am hyper-technical in my area of expertise and I’m constantly thinking and hypothesizing. But I find writing restful and it helps me concentrate on one simple task. Taking notes also helps me to apply active listening, it forces me to slow down and pay attention.
How are you paying your success forward?
By mentoring. It is fulfilling to find and coach talent, to observe their progress and to help them when needed. The mentoring I received early in my career was precious to me and I think about how my two mentors advised me. It is my duty to do the same by training younger staff.