Featured Researcher: Chétna Rao – Bristol Myers Squibb
Chétna Rao, PhD
Head, Global R&ED STEM Strategy
Bay Area, CA
Chétna Rao, PhD, serves as the head of global R&ED STEM strategy for Bristol Myers Squibb, where she oversees STEM initiatives across the R&ED landscape. Chetna has already been instrumental in the launch of STEM programming in the San Francisco Bay Area. She is now working to shape a diverse and inclusive culture to build a talent pipeline for the next generation of innovative scientists.
In her role, Chétna works across all R&ED thematic research center (TRC) sites with the aim of further establishing the company’s commitment to STEM efforts to bring forward the next generation of R&ED scientists to serve our patients. Chétna is responsible for solidifying an infrastructure to support ongoing planning, coordination, assessment and continuous improvement of R&ED STEM initiatives and workforce development by working closely with local initiatives at our thematic research centers and the community. In addition, she collaborates across the broader Bristol Myers Squibb network of People and Business Resource Groups (PBRGs) Talent Acquisition and STEM Council to enable our pipeline of talent across all functions in R&ED.
Chétna is also the co-chair of the company’s R&ED STEM Council. In this role, she supports local students from elementary school through graduate school by creating opportunities that help expose students to STEM subjects, ignite and sustain their curiosity about science and provide resources to help them pursue academic and career interests in STEM. These programs aim to nurture the next generation of young scientists while also providing access to equal opportunities for students in historically excluded communities who have a passion for science.
Chétna has been with the company for over a decade. Prior to this role, she served as the director of site strategy and operations for the Bay Area in California. Before that she was the director of the protein engineering group. Chétna has over 20 years of experience in antibody drug conjugation (ADC), antibody discovery, protein chemistry and biotechnology. Her well-established scientific record includes numerous patents and publications for developing novel methods for bioconjugation of payload linkers, characterizing ADC therapies and discovering the structure-function of enzymes. As a scientist, she contributed to the approval of three FDA-approved drugs.
Chétna earned her PhD in biochemistry and molecular biology from the University of Florida, where she earned the Best Thesis Award from the College of Medicine. She worked as a post-doctoral scientist at the University of Florida and the University of California Davis.
Interests and Expertise
Chétna is a strong supporter of diversity and inclusion outside of work as well. In her free time, she mentors girls and young women to help them understand their true potential and to ensure all ethnicities and races have a level playing field for opportunities to showcase their talent. She gives back to the community by volunteering and obtaining grants for a local food bank that provides meals to those in need.
“I want to invest now in these kids and these schools so that we as a society can reap the benefits in five to 10 to 20 years,” she said. “Such an investment not only supports our company’s mission to help patients prevail over serious diseases, but also benefits the community as a whole by making science accessible to underrepresented minorities, offering exciting careers in science and nurturing talent as one of the key resources for our future.”
Chétna is on the board of directors of California Life Sciences (CLS) and is a member of the talent pipeline sub-committee for CLS Racial and Social Equity Initiative, where she works to promote the development of the STEM education pipeline by helping students in historically excluded communities achieve academic success. She serves as the BMS representative for the Bay Area Council’s Science and Innovation Consortium (BASIC) group and the Silicon Valley Leadership Group (SVLG). Chétna focuses on developing strong partnerships both internally and externally as a conduit for state and local government affairs.
When Chétna is not spearheading the STEM and D&I initiatives for Bristol Myers Squibb, she is either walking the trails at the foothills of Mount Diablo or practicing yoga. She also loves cooking and shares her home cooked meals with her neighbors on weekends.