Featured Researcher: Neil Bence PhD – Bristol Myers Squibb

Neil Bence

Neil Bence, PhD

Vice President, Head of Oncology Discovery, San Diego Site Head

San Diego, California


Neil Bence, PhD, serves as the vice president and head of Oncology Discovery at Bristol Myers Squibb, where he oversees an in vivo pharmacology and three discovery biology departments at the Oncogenesis Thematic Research Center in San Diego, CA. 


He and his team are responsible for cancer biology research, identifying new targets and supporting the company’s hematology and solid tumor oncology drug discovery pipeline. Neil also serves as site head for the company’s San Diego location. 


In his role, Neil leverages Bristol Myers Squibb’s expertise in targeted protein degradation to discover and develop novel therapies aimed at tumor intrinsic vulnerabilities in patient populations with unmet need. Neil’s team investigates ways to degrade disease-causing proteins that were previously thought to be undruggable. Neil’s team partners closely with colleagues in Translational Development, Informatics and Predictive Sciences, Medicinal Chemistry and Early Clinical Development to deliver novel candidate molecules for clinical development supported by robust biomarkers for well-defined patient populations of unmet need.


Prior to joining Bristol Myers Squibb by way of Celgene in 2019, Neil served as the head of biology at Nurix Therapeutics. At Nurix, he oversaw cellular and in vivo pharmacology research for multiple oncology and immunology projects, and helped discover E3 ligase modulators and degraders such as the company’s lead BTK degrader and CBL-B ligase inhibitor. He also worked at Millennium and Takeda Pharmaceuticals in Cambridge, MA, where he led biology teams that helped advance multiple programs including novel E1 activating enzyme inhibitors to the clinic for heme and solid tumor oncology indications.


Neil received a bachelor’s degree from the University of California, Davis, and a PhD in biological sciences from Stanford University.

Interests and Expertise

Neil is passionate about novel drug discovery, the power of team-based collaborative research and empowering the next generation of scientists and leaders. 


When not at work, Neil enjoys spending time with his family and trail running and hiking the coastal mountains of California and the Plumas National Forest in the northern Sierra. One of his favorite ways to spend a weekend is mountain biking the climbs and technical descents of the Soquel Forest in the Santa Cruz Mountains with his son, Nate.