Featured Researcher: Lata Jayaraman – Bristol Myers Squibb
Lata Jayaraman, Ph.D.
Head, Oncology Drug Discovery
Lata Jayaraman is head of Oncology Drug Discovery at Bristol Myers Squibb’s Mechanisms of Cancer Resistance Thematic Research Center in Cambridge, MA. The center is dedicated to examining cancer biology to gain insights on why some patients don’t respond or stop responding to certain therapies. In this role, Lata leads a team of scientists who explore targets and assets from discovery up until the development phase, focusing on discovering and optimizing drugs for important targets in cancer cells. In particular, novel tumor intrinsic targets and pathways that are refractory to current therapies are a key focus area for her group.
“Our long-term goal is to contribute to and help deliver on the strong oncology pipeline at Bristol Myers Squibb,” she said. “To get there, we focus on understanding how the targets we're working on will impact the tumor cell, how we can drug those targets, how the cells will respond to the treatment and how we can work in close partnership with our colleagues across the company to produce these potentially life-saving medicines for patients.”
Lata and her team have been instrumental in progressing several therapeutic targets along the drug discovery path to help patients in need. She leads a group of more than 20 scientists, working on a diverse range of projects aimed at overcoming some of medicine’s biggest challenges, in collaboration with colleagues in chemistry, toxicology, pharmacology, translational medicine and more to complete a holistic study of cancer cells and how to successfully exploit their weaknesses.
Lata began her career at Bristol Myers Squibb over 20 years ago as a senior research investigator, where she spent over 10 years leading multiple small and large molecule projects across diverse target classes within oncology and immuno-oncology. She also held roles in oncology, pharmacology and translational research at Merck, Cerulean Pharma, and Seres Therapeutics before rejoining Bristol Myers Squibb in 2019. She describes the feeling of rejoining the company like coming back home after being away on a long trip.
Lata earned her Ph.D. in cancer biology at Columbia University and completed her post-doctoral training in cancer biology at the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center.
Interests and Expertise
Lata is deeply passionate about the knowledge she discovers every day while at work. “What fascinates me about my job and continues to every single day is that each day I know more about the human body than I knew the day before. Who else can say that about their job?”
Pursuing a career in science and conducting research had always been part of Lata’s plan, though in her current role she has also been able to help develop the culture and talent at the company’s Cambridge site – spending the past two years designing and building her team.
“I want to be a part of the legacy here at Cambridge, based on a strong culture and unique sense of community,” she said. “When people look back at their experience here 10 years from now, I want them to say, ‘Wow, what an unforgettable experience that was.’”
In her free time, Lata enjoys volunteering for the American Cancer Society in their grant-writing division. When she isn’t in the lab, she can usually be found cooking or baking for her family. She enjoys cooking with her son and sharing her culinary passion with him.