Uniting to Take on Cancer

July 09, 2020

In 2012, Bristol Myers Squibb formed the International Immuno-Oncology Network (II-ON), one of the first global peer-to-peer collaborations to bring industry and academia together to further the scientific understanding of I-O. The network aims to advance oncology science through translational medicine by focusing on three major areas: exploring mechanisms of resistance in cancer, identifying combination therapy potential and better understanding the patients who will respond best to therapies through biomarker strategies.

More than 100 members from Bristol Myers Squibb and II-ON's cancer research institutions gathered at the 9th Annual II-ON Scientific Symposium, held in Philadelphia.

“What makes II-ON unique – and I've seen this firsthand – is the real-time interaction that our researchers and our clinicians have with the investigators and the network. People are picking up the phone, they're exchanging ideas, they're sharing data and discoveries in real time,” said Saurabh Saha, M.D., Ph.D., senior vice president of translational medicine at Bristol Myers Squibb. “When you consider that this community includes some of the leading oncology academics in the world, you really see that the II-ON is truly something special.”

Each year, researchers from the II-ON convene to share insights across oncology research and exchange learnings. In 2020, more than 100 members from II-ON academic institutions and Bristol Myers Squibb gathered in Philadelphia to attend the 9th Annual II-ON Scientific Symposium and discuss a wide variety of topics at the forefront of cancer research. 

Saurabh Saha, senior vice president, global head of Translational Medicine, Bristol Myers Squibb.

Saurabh Saha, senior vice president, global head of Translational Medicine, Bristol Myers Squibb.

This year marked the first II-ON Symposium since Bristol Myers Squibb and Celgene came together as a new company – and with the growth of the company came expanded areas of discussion and focus for the network. 

“It's clear to me from attending the meeting that the II-ON has great expertise in hematology and cell therapy on top of the substantial contributions already made in solid tumors,” said Rupert Vessey, M.A., B.M., B.Ch., F.R.C.P., D.Phil. executive vice president and president, research and early development. “I think this provides a long runway for II-ON in terms of advancing cancer research forward in the future.”

Rupert Vessey, head of Research and Early Development, Bristol Myers Squibb, provides an overview of the company’s oncology research program for II-ON’s membership.

Consisting of 16 sites across North America, Europe, Japan and Australia, the II-ON members collaborate to generate innovative science, launch biology-driven trials and apply cutting-edge technologies with the goal of translating research findings into clinical trials and, ultimately, supporting efforts to improve survival outcomes across cancers.

“Bristol Myers Squibb is a robust, innovative organization, but we're just one small part of the scientific community. Being able to collaborate with the best minds in the field on a regular basis and for us to see what they are doing in the cutting-edge field of oncology is very fertile ground,” said Vessey. 

This year’s symposium was also an opportunity to start thinking about how the II-ON’s expanded capabilities in oncology and hematology might open new avenues of study. 

“The II-ON is not a static organization,” said Saha. “The fast-moving nature of cancer research demands a very dynamic type of organization that evolves with the science, and that’s what II-ON has always been.”