Featured Researcher: Michael (Mike) Ellis – Bristol Myers Squibb

Michael (Mike) Ellis, PhD

Michael (Mike) Ellis, PhD

Senior Vice President, Head, Small Molecule Drug Discovery

Cambridge, MA


Mike Ellis, PhD, serves as the senior vice president of Small Molecule Drug Discovery (SMDD). Mike and the SMDD team partner with cross-functional scientists throughout Bristol Myers Squibb’s network of thematic research centers to create and advance potentially transformational pipeline assets.


Mike’s team is responsible for supporting the identification and optimization of small molecule therapies. Mike has contributed to the discovery of multiple clinical assets, development candidates and enabling tools and platforms. The collaboration between the SMDD team, discovery biology scientists and biotherapeutics allows Bristol Myers Squibb to better understand how to build a pipeline of potential medicines that control disease processes and reverse their underlying mechanism with the aim to improve patients’ lives by modifying the course of their disease, rather than only treating symptoms.


Mike joined Bristol Myers Squibb by way of Celgene in 2019. At Celgene, he was the executive director of chemistry, enabling therapeutic opportunities in fibrosis, immunology, neuroscience and oncology. Prior to joining Celgene, Mike was part of the medicinal chemistry team at Merck Research Laboratories as an individual contributor, people manager and program lead across immunology, neuroscience and oncology.


Mike graduated magna cum laude from Wake Forest University with a bachelor’s degree in chemistry. He obtained his PhD in chemistry from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and completed his postdoctoral fellowship through the Ruth L. Kirschstein National Institutes of Health at the University of California, Irvine. Mike is a co-author of more than 25 publications and co-inventor on 25 patents and patent applications.

Interests and Expertise

Mike’s path to the pharmaceutical industry was influenced by his high school chemistry teacher as well as the opportunity to conduct hands-on research as an undergraduate student. Mike is passionate about talent development and capitalizing on opportunities to impact human health through scientific innovation. 


“As I considered long-term career options, I was attracted to the possibility of leveraging chemistry and science to create molecules that have never existed before with the potential to positively impact human health. This continues to provide an amazing opportunity to invent the future with the discoveries we make every day in our laboratories; it’s a tremendous privilege.”


Mike received an American Chemical Society (ACS) Young Investigator’s Award in 2016 and served as the chair of the Boston Symposium on Organic & Bioorganic Chemistry in 2019. He currently serves on the American Chemical Society’s Executive Committee and as a section editor for Medicinal Chemistry Reviews. Mike is a co-chair of the 2022 ACS Pharma Leaders consortium and has been elected chair of the 2023 Medicinal Chemistry Gordon Research Conference.


Born and raised in the south, Mike has grown fond of New England since moving to the area in 2009. He has learned how to shovel snow and witnessed the significant growth of the life sciences industry in the greater Boston-Cambridge area. Mike enjoys life with his wife and four children. They frequently spend time outdoors cycling, hiking, skiing and playing sports.