Contributes to Fight Against COVID-19
With a history spanning over 150 years, Bristol Myers Squibb is well known for its work to help patients prevail over their diseases. Late last year, the company entered a new chapter following its acquisition of Celgene Corporation. The company, a global leader in biopharma, continues their work to address the needs of patients, including pioneering next generation medicines for those with cancer, and at the same time they are addressing the impact of COVID-19 across its global community.
Next Generation Cancer Care
The company is at the forefront of discovering, developing and delivering new medicines that use a patient’s own cells to fight cancer, known as cell therapy. The company has invested significantly in research and development in this space, and scientists are getting closer to unlocking new ways to fight hard to treat cancers.
Specifically, Bristol Myers Squibb is advancing the science of autologous chimeric antigen receptor, or CAR T cell therapy, a type of cancer immunotherapy where a patient’s own T cells are genetically engineered to recognize and bind to proteins found on the surface of certain cancer cells.
CAR T-cell therapies have been shown to improve outcomes for some patients who may otherwise have no other option and represent a significant advancement in the scientific progress of treating cancer.
Bristol Myers Squibb has multiple cell therapy candidates in late-stage clinical trials, with two products nearing commercialization pending approval from the Food and Drug Administration.
Unlike traditional medicines, CAR T cell therapy requires a highly personalized manufacturing process, where a patient’s T cells are extracted, sent to a manufacturing facility where they are reengineered and expanded to produce sufficient cells for fighting the disease, and then returned to the provider for infusion back into the patient.
“We are committed to making our CAR T cell therapy treatments available for eligible patients,” said Krishnan Viswanadhan SVP, Global Cell Therapy Franchise Lead, Bristol Myers Squibb. “If approved, these therapies have the potential to help address critical unmet needs for patients with aggressive blood cancers.”
BMS continues to advance their manufacturing capacity and capabilities in order to meet patient demand. Ann Lee, Head of Cell Therapy Development & Operations, Bristol Myers Squibb, said they are investing in the cell therapy supply chain network, as well as in novel manufacturing processes and analytical technologies to increase access to cell therapies.
“Our goal is to make CAR T cells more functional and persistent with the aim of optimizing outcomes for patients,” said Lee. “Our manufacturing network is ready to support the anticipated launch of our CAR T cell therapies and provide them to patients as reliably as possible.”
Bristol Myers Squibb is also engaging various stakeholders to encourage government and commercial insurers to cover and reimburse for CART cell therapy so patients can better access these innovative therapies.
The COVID-19 pandemic continues to affect each of us and the communities in which we live in different ways. Bristol Myers Squibb has taken steps to protect the health, wellbeing and safety of its workforce, ensure the continued supply of its medicines to its patients, and support relief efforts across the globe.
In April, Bristol Myers Squibb expanded its existing patient support programs to help eligible unemployed patients in the United States who have lost their health insurance due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The expanded program offers access to the company’s branded medicines for free. It includes immediate access for patients who have lost their employment and health insurance and vouchers to assist with continuity of care for several self-administered Bristol Myers Squibb medicines, for eligible patients. The program uses a single point of entry and streamlined enrollment to make it as accessible as possible.
Together, Bristol Myers Squibb and the Bristol Myers Squibb Foundation have contributed more than $31 million in financial support and needed products, such as personal protective equipment (PPE), to relief efforts in 43 countries focusing on areas of highest unmet need.
The Foundation has supported nearly 50 organizations in the U.S. and more than 150 organizations globally that care for patients and that support those on the frontlines of the COVID-19 response. In addition, it has contributed funding to support the work of more than 40 patient advocacy groups and professional societies. The company is engaging with more than 250 patient and professional organizations to support research, education, and a wide range of efforts to benefit those in need.
To further assist with worldwide COVID-19 mitigation efforts, Bristol Myers Squibb has a proof-of-concept clinical trial in progress to assess the safety and efficacy of ORENCIA® (abatacept) in hospitalized patients with COVID-19 due to severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2).
It is part of the Accelerating COVID-19 Therapeutic Interventions and Vaccines (ACTIV) partnership, a collaboration with the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Foundation for NIH (FNIH), as well as a number of other industry, not-for-profit, and public health organizations, to develop a national strategy for coordinated COVID-19 research response.
Bristol Myers Squibb is one of 15 companies participating in the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s COVID-19 Therapeutics Accelerator to identify concrete actions to accelerate treatments, vaccines, and diagnostics in the field.
It is also part of a consortium of companies focused on sharing data and identifying molecules with the strongest scientific rationale for investigating with clinical trials and accelerating them into studies.
Diversity and Inclusion Efforts
The COVID-19 pandemic has spotlighted the racial inequality gap in healthcare. Data from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has exposed the severity of social and health disparities in the U.S. that increase the risk for COVID-19 infection and poorer health outcomes for Black and Latinx communities.
To help, Bristol Myers Squibb and the Bristol Myers Squibb Foundation are investing a combined $300 million dollars to health equity and Diversity and Inclusion efforts over the next five years.
The money will be used to address health disparities and increase clinical trial diversity, among other initiatives. The Foundation’s commitment to clinical trial diversity focuses on building clinical trial infrastructure in diverse communities and high disease burden areas in the U.S. and increasing the diversity of investigators through a fellowship program over five years.
The company is working on accelerating its efforts to reach at-risk patients with disease awareness, education and support programs, including programs for people who cannot afford their medicines.
Achieving gender parity in their company workforce in 2015, Bristol Myers Squibb has also announced a commitment to achieve gender parity at the executive level globally and doubling executive representation of both Black and Latinx employees in the U.S by 2022.
“As a patient focused company, it is vital that our workforce reflects the people, cultures and communities we serve,” said Ann Powell, Chief Human Resources Officer, Bristol Myers Squibb. “We recognize that meeting the needs of patients means we must continue to grow a powerfully diverse, and broadly inclusive, workforce.”
They are also focusing on increasing supplier diversity with plans to spend $1 billion globally by 2025 with other minority-owned businesses to help create jobs and generate positive economic impact in diverse communities.
Additionally, the Foundation will provide a two-to-one match for U.S. employee donations to organizations that fight health disparities and discrimination.
Bristol Myers Squibb remains committed to advancing next generation medicines, including CAR T-cell therapy, along with pursuing research and development for new medicines in other disease states so patients across the world can continue to prevail over their diseases.