BMS’ commitment to precision medicine for patients living with immune-mediated diseases
Kellie Calderon, MD, executive medical director at Bristol Myers Squibb, has built her career in both clinical practice as well as in the pharmaceutical industry. Through her experiences, she has learned the value of collaboration and the importance of precision medicine — both of which are vital in advancing treatments and care for people living with immune-mediated diseases.
What excites you about the work that Bristol Myers Squibb is doing in immunology? And more specifically, rheumatology?
There is so much to be excited about. The study of rheumatic diseases has evolved over a relatively short period of time. Years ago, being in rheumatology meant primarily studying rheumatoid arthritis (RA), to learn more about the disease and how we can develop new treatments. Today, we have a deep understanding of how RA develops and progresses, driving advancements to the point where we have the experience and tools to make an impact on rarer, more heterogeneous diseases.
For example, what we’re seeing in lupus is incredible. This is a disease that, for decades, has evaded effective targeted therapies. The disease is complex, as it notoriously presents differently from patient to patient and often varies day to day. Historically, these complexities have made it incredibly hard to diagnose, treat and develop potential medicines.
It is exciting to see the progress in lupus to date with advanced targeted therapies in development that are showing promise and providing the opportunity to change lives.
Can you talk about how Bristol Myers Squibb defines precision medicine? What makes it unique in terms of developing new therapies for immune-mediated diseases, including rheumatic diseases?
While the definition of precision medicine is ever evolving, it focuses on the patient, the disease process and a specific targeted therapeutic approach. It’s this combination that is poised to deliver transformational efficacy results for patients.
Building on this approach, our immunology pipeline is now benefiting from earlier investigation of candidate biomarkers, researching specific patient characteristics and looking at genetics to proactively identify patients who are most likely to have a differential response to specific therapies.
Why it is important for pharma to collaborate with outside partners to advance treatment options for immune-mediated diseases?
To succeed, Bristol Myers Squibb needs to be a trusted partner in the community, especially as science in immunology is rapidly evolving. We’re building, growing and extending our partnerships with healthcare professionals, patients, academic institutions and advocacy organizations to better address and understand unmet needs from perspectives other than our own.
Our internal talent is rich with experience in research, clinical trials and the biopharmaceutical industry. Complementing that experience with external partners is going to be the most efficient way to ensure that we deliver on the promise of our investigational assets and approved medicines.
What is it about your work that motivates you?
I’m motivated and excited that we’re making a difference. When I was in clinical practice, I often made treatment choices based on what would be best for my patient and what was available through their insurance.
Now, my days are spent with the team working to do everything that we can to ensure that payers, physicians and patients have the information they need. With this, physicians are able to make the best treatment decisions and get needed medicines to their patients in need.
What past experiences have shaped your approach to leading teams at Bristol Myers Squibb?
In transplant medicine, you work in a matrix team, which includes social workers, nurses, physicians, surgeons, pharmacists and others to provide the best possible care to patients.
Moving into industry, I have applied this matrix approach, where the contributions of everyone are not only welcome but actively sought out. The teams that I have led successfully have been very diverse, not just from their academic backgrounds, but from social experiences, where they grew up, their racial and ethnic backgrounds. Everybody brings a different perspective, and the more diverse perspectives you have when approaching a problem, the more creative and innovative you can be in finding a solution.