Justine Dell’Aringa with family

Blueprint for a breakthrough: Applying research learnings beyond the lab

April 07, 2021
J

ustine Dell’Aringa, associate director, Translational Research, Immuno-Oncology and Cell Therapy at Bristol Myers Squibb, knows a thing or two about building from the ground up. By day, she works in the company’s Immuno-Oncology (I-O) and Cell Therapy Thematic Research Center, leading a team of talented scientists focused on the implementation of translational development research plans into clinical trials for investigational cell therapy assets – treatments that work by re-engineering immune cells to fight against some of the most difficult-to-treat diseases, like cancer. 

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 “Translational research is particularly important in cell therapy because it is an emerging modality – a relatively new, ‘living’ treatment. And so, the translational research data helps substantiate clinical findings,” she said. “We generate data to support and verify a drug’s mechanism of action, and also help understand the depth of clinical response, safety profile and mechanisms of resistance.”

With multiple cell-based therapeutic approaches under investigation in blood cancers and beyond, Bristol Myers Squibb researchers like Justine are harnessing the immune system to reimagine the future of cancer treatment and potentially bring life-changing therapies to more patients as quickly as possible.

Helping shape the next generation of cancer treatments may seem like more than enough to fill one’s time, but outside of work, Justine and her husband are working on another project of significant scale – the demolition and rebuilding of their Seattle home. 

“We love Seattle and knew we didn’t want to leave – not only is there a thriving life sciences community, but between the mountains, the water and the city there is so much to do and experience,” she said. “When we looked around in our neighborhood, we didn’t see anything that really fit our needs, so we decided to take on the project ourselves.”

The couple first undertook the construction of a small backyard cottage as a feasibility project before embarking upon the larger house build. They quickly discovered that Justine’s skills in translational medicine and cell therapy were beneficial to the project in an unexpected – and very helpful – way. 

“Working in a novel space like cell therapy really prepared me to undertake a project like a home construction build – in a lot of ways, they’re actually very similar,” she said. “Both require planning, preparation and focus – but of course – both also involve failure, resilience and flexibility.”

Throughout the process of construction, Justine and her husband faced multiple setbacks, including issues with design, sourcing – and not to mention, a global pandemic. However, a true scientist by nature, Justine pushed forward, learning from these challenges and implementing a new path forward to accomplish their goals. 

“In looking back at our project, there actually isn't much I would change. There's a few design tweaks here and there I wish I would have thought of, but they're insignificant,” she said. “I'm really grateful that we've been able to move forward with the project. Like science, I wish we could have done it sooner and faster, but I am happy with what we have accomplished and will count that as a success.”

With cell therapy assets progressing through the pipeline at work, and the finishing touches about to be implemented on her home, Justine is excited about what she has built. 

“The idea of a home base is so important, in all aspects of life. I hope that the spaces I am building – in and out of the workplace – and the opportunities that they enable, provide people with space to explore, grow, collaborate and discover new things that make the world a better place.”