Georges Motchoffo Simo joined Bristol Myers Squibb last summer through the Cell Therapy Rotational Program, which gives participants experience in different functional areas of cell therapy.

Georges Motchoffo Simo joined Bristol Myers Squibb last summer through the Cell Therapy Rotational Program, which gives participants experience in different functional areas of cell therapy.

Cell therapy’s got talent – and is looking for more

Major recruitment effort underway at Bristol Myers Squibb as newness of the field poses challenges – and opportunities

March 05, 2021
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s Vice President, Cell Therapy Pipeline & Product Lifecycle Strategy, Gargi Maheshwari leads teams responsible for advancing drug candidates from research to clinical studies to commercial supply. She joined Bristol Myers Squibb in 2020, leaving a senior executive role in bioprocess development at another company for the chance to “work with the best minds in cell therapy,” she said.

Vice President, Cell Therapy Pipeline & Product Lifecycle Strategy Gargi Maheshwari joined Bristol Myers Squibb in 2020 for the chance to “work with the best minds in cell therapy.”

Vice President, Cell Therapy Pipeline & Product Lifecycle Strategy Gargi Maheshwari joined Bristol Myers Squibb in 2020 for the chance to “work with the best minds in cell therapy.”

“I had been following the cell therapy field for the last several years. The cell therapy talent at Bristol Myers Squibb is well known in the industry as the best out there,” she said.

Maheshwari is one of more than 900 colleagues who joined the company’s Cell Therapy Development Operations (CTDO) organization in 2020. The number for 2021, encompassing both CTDO and enabling functions, is expected to be even higher as the company continues investing across the spectrum of cell therapy operations, from early development programs, to a budding commercial portfolio, to a global manufacturing infrastructure.  

At Bristol Myers Squibb, chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T cell therapy represents a new and personalized approach to treating certain blood cancers. Unlike traditional cancer therapies, CAR T cell therapies are administered as a treatment made from a patient’s own T cells, which are “reprogrammed” during a sophisticated manufacturing process to help the T cells recognize and fight cancer cells.

While the potential of cell therapy for patients and the need to grow is clear, finding talent in a field that’s so new and different from other modalities can be challenging.

“We’re doing things that have never been done before,” said Andrew Rigoglioso, associate director, Talent Pipelining and Executive Recruiting, who leads the company’s cell therapy recruitment efforts. “The way we discover, develop and commercialize a cell therapy medicine is different than a small molecule or a biologic. That’s why recruiting is challenging, because we’re looking for people to do things that have never been done before.”

Andrew Rigoglioso, associate director, Talent Pipelining and Executive Recruiting, said recruiting in cell therapy can be challenging “because we’re looking for people to do things that have never been done before.”

Andrew Rigoglioso, associate director, Talent Pipelining and Executive Recruiting, said recruiting in cell therapy can be challenging “because we’re looking for people to do things that have never been done before.”

Building a cell therapy team

A limited candidate pool with direct cell therapy experience means thinking differently about talent. Beyond the baseline technical proficiencies, recruiters said evidence of an innovative mindset is a prerequisite.

“Even if they’ve never commercialized a cell therapy product, what processes have they innovated? What innovative technologies have they implemented? How do they stay at the forefront of technology? People who have a history of doing that will do well on our cell therapy teams,” Rigoglioso said. “People who need the blueprint may struggle, because there’s no blueprint for what we’re doing.”

The need for innovation also applies to the recruitment plan. The Cell Therapy Rotational Program is one of the novel ways the company is attracting talent. The two-year program, launched in 2020, hires a select cohort of new graduates who start their careers at Bristol Myers Squibb with four to six-month rotations through the cell therapy functional areas of Product & Analytical Development, Process Science & Technology, Manufacturing, Manufacturing Sciences & Technology, Pipeline & Product Lifecycle Strategy, Patient Operations/Experience, Strategy Business Operations, Supply Chain, and Quality.

Georges Motchoffo Simo joined Bristol Myers Squibb through the rotational program last August after graduating from the University of Washington with dual degrees in chemical engineering and biochemistry. He’s currently working in Process and Analytical Development in Seattle. 

Simo said he was attracted by the company’s emphasis on patients and its values, and the chance to get broad experience in cell therapy through the rotational program. 

“I would love to be a well-rounded scientist with a breadth of knowledge in cell therapy. I will be able to develop a great network and meet a number of mentors who would push me in my career and help me find my position in the company,” said Simo. “I am hoping to find a group that I can call home and be able to use the knowledge and connections that I made from the other rotations.”

The concept of cell therapy – taking peoples’ cells from their bodies, engineering them and putting them back to fight disease – can still seem like science fiction.  Simo describes cell therapy as “a beautiful technology” and said it astonished him when he was first exposed to it in college.  

It’s a sense of wonder that Maheshwari still shares. “As an engineer, this is as close to the patient as one can get,” she said. 

Cell Therapy Jobs

To explore cell therapy openings at Bristol Myers Squibb, visit the https://careers.bms.com.