No discovery is made in a silo, and this is perhaps especially true in a rapidly evolving field like immuno-oncology. For Barnhart, communicating with other scientists is critical to uncovering new targets and pathways as Bristol-Myers Squibb works to discover transformational medicines for patients in need.
“I think it's really important that people think about how they talk about science to one another, how they talk about science to the outside world and how they talk about science in their day-to-day processes.”
Barnhart has a unique perspective for a researcher. He double majored in science and literature and at one point, considered pursuing a career as an English professor. Given his background, he sees links between language and science across his life – from examining plot points of his favorite novel, Moby Dick, to discussing what is happening this week in science class with his two children. At Bristol-Myers Squibb, Barnhart is able to put this distinct skill set to use in helping expand the company’s understanding of how the immune system interacts with cancer.
“Really the basis of science and scientific advancement in a lot of ways is collaboration, and communication is so vital in fostering that within a group of people,” Barnhart says. “You need to be able to convey your ideas, and articulate your findings to other scientists.”
Whether it be a weekly lab meeting with teammates to discuss a new finding or process, a presentation of new I-O research at a medical meeting or merely a quick chat with another scientist while grabbing a coffee, Barnhart sees communication – and the collaboration that it promotes – as pivotal to the success of any R&D organization. With over 20 oncology assets in clinical development at Bristol-Myers Squibb, evolving the language of immuno-oncology is essential as Barnhart and colleagues continue to advance the company’s pipeline.
When it comes to the cancer discoveries of tomorrow, Barnhart is particularly passionate about ensuring the next generation of immuno-oncology researchers is armed with the necessary language tools to continue to push the field forward.
“I think it’s very important to help younger scientists learn the language of the science that they’re working in, whatever their area of focus,” Barnhart says. “Once they understand the language of science, they can go off and make their own fantastic discoveries.”