Leadership Insights

The New Collaboration Ecosystem: The Power of Many

January 08, 2018 | by Tom Lynch, Chief Scientific Officer, Bristol-Myers Squibb


rug development is at its very core a collaborative process. Much of our innovation at Bristol-Myers Squibb comes from within — a transition of ideas from discovery to development to regulatory to commercial application.  Often our ideas come from partners — either academics or biotechs.  As a company, Bristol-Myers Squibb looks everywhere for good science. We collaborate across a broad set of partners in the scientific community, knowing that our efforts are only a piece of the incredible discovery process and progress that is happening today. 


Tom Lynch, Chief Scientific Officer, Bristol-Myers Squibb

Based on this approach, we purposefully source only a percentage of our pipeline internally and focus significant efforts on partners who are critical to our future and to patients. This requires a creative and broad-minded outlook to finding external innovation, one that is rooted in collaboration. This focus on collaboration is built into our R&D strategy and culture. This same focus is a critical component of our approach to working with a range of multi-disciplinary experts from outside of Bristol-Myers Squibb — scientists, academics, physicians, data experts, advocates and more.  We are stronger through these partnerships, better able to deliver on our mission of discovering, developing and delivering innovative medicines to patients with serious disease.

In fact, today Bristol-Myers Squibb has more than 100 active partnerships and collaborations with academic research centers, laboratories, clinicians, clinical trials organizations, and pharmaceutical and biotech firms around the world.

This results in a greater influx of new ideas and scientific hypotheses that help accelerate the discovery, development and delivery of potentially transformational medicines to patients. Our partners improve our work, they help us think differently and challenge the status quo of science. And we, in turn, help them do the same.

Long Record of Success


Our belief in this approach comes from experience. For example, our collaboration and acquisition of Medarex in 2009 helped strengthen our biologics capabilities and build our leading immuno-oncology portfolio.  Now, we’re applying the same model to our work in fibrotic diseases.  Fibrosis — a newer area of scientific focus for Bristol-Myers Squibb — is a process that manifests in several diseases, such as pulmonary fibrosis and nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH).

After identifying a significant unmet need for these patients several years ago, we’ve been building our fibrosis portfolio through internal and external innovation. Our lead compounds in advanced liver fibrosis, FGF21 and HSP47, came into Bristol-Myers Squibb through licensing deals (FGF21, in 2011, from Ambrx; and HSP47, in 2016, from Nitto Denko).  These assets are advancing in development, and we’re excited by their potential.

We’re also advancing the biological understanding of liver fibrosis through key research partnerships and collaborations, bringing the best scientific thinking to our work.  We’ve partnered with TARGET PharmaSolutions to support TARGET-NASH, a robust disease registry designed to increase understanding of the natural history of the disease. We’re also collaborating with Nordic Bioscience, a leader in biomarker development. Together, our goal is to identify, explore and validate biomarkers that would offer the ability to identify NASH patients who would most benefit from treatment and assess treatment response. 

We also continue to build our translational medicine capabilities to ensure we have the best understanding of disease- and asset-specific biology that will enable us to rapidly deliver innovative medicines to patients with even greater precision. This work is made possible through important partnerships and investments we’ve made with companies like GRAIL, Foundation Medicine, GeneCentric and Nordic Bioscience.  

When I served on Bristol-Myers Squibb’s board of directors, I knew that this company had a unique approach to business development. Since joining the company as CSO last year, it’s been exhilarating to see new collaborations take shape firsthand.

You never know where the next great idea will come from.  When it comes to discovering, developing and delivering innovative medicines for patients, I’m proud to be part of a team that won’t let up on the search.