During its 52 years of doing business in Taiwan, Bristol-Myers Squibb (BMS) has spearheaded the introduction into this market of cutting-edge medicines for the treatment of serious ailments such as hepatitis B and C, rheumatoid arthritis and other immune related diseases, and leukemia and other types of cancer.
The parent company is the result of the 1989 merger of two of the oldest and most distinguished enterprises in the American pharmaceutical industry – the Bristol-Myers Corp. (founded in 1887) and Squibb (founded in 1858). In the years following the merger, the New York-based company proceeded to shed its consumer-product lines, such as baby formula and shampoo, many of which had become household names around the world, to concentrate on the pharmaceutical market. Today BMS (Taiwan) is among the dozen largest pharmaceutical brands in Taiwan.
Under the motto of “Working Together for Patients,” the highest priority for BMS staff members in Taiwan is enabling patients to overcome their illnesses and return to good health. “Our team is dedicated to developing and marketing innovative medicines that save lives and improve the quality of life for patients,” says Joyce Lee, the BMS Taiwan general manager. “As a leader in the biopharmaceutical field, BMS regards its mission as improving patients’ well-being – and we measure our success according to how well that mission is achieved.”
Lee cites two main factors – cultivating talent and promoting innovation – as accounting for BMS Taiwan’s longstanding record of success. The first involves hiring the best people from diverse cultural backgrounds and then nurturing and encouraging them through inspiring work and challenging career options. The company also seeks to provide employees with broad experience by rotating them through various roles in the organization even cross geography.
The passionate and energetic BMS team is characterized by excellent professional training and a flexible, innovative approach to their work. “Around 50% of our employees are millennials, and the leadership team’s average age is 41 years old,” Lee says. “Our employees include people with work experience in 14 industries, living experience in five countries, and the ability to speak six different languages.”
“It’s a quality team that we’re very proud of,” she adds, noting that most of the employees have a professional background. “Of our 11-member leadership team, six – including myself – are licensed pharmacists, one is a U.S. licensed medical doctor, and one a licensed lawyer.”
As to innovation, BMS is committed to investing heavily in biopharmaceutical research and development, carried out with scientific rigor, to develop high-quality drugs that address the unmet medical needs of critically ill patients. Besides its existing portfolio of drugs, it is preparing to bring to Taiwan a number of new medications that are currently under development, including therapies for different cancer types such as liver cancer, lung cancer; fibrosis for lung and liver; cardiology such as heart failure.
In recent years, in recognition of the high quality of Taiwan’s medical professionals, hospitals, and national healthcare system, the company has been investing to carry out clinical trials in this market for new drugs. Due to the high prevalence of hepatitis patients, Taiwan has contributed significant numbers of trial participants and established its role in hepatitis drug development. Around 100,000 local patients have been diagnosed with chronic hepatitis C, and another 450,000 people are considered to be carriers – a relatively high incidence compared to other countries. In addition, last year, doctors at National Taiwan University Hospital collaborated with BMS on a First in Human (FIH) clinical trial for liver cancer, which was also the first FIH trial for BMS Taiwan. This FIH trial is a testimony to Taiwan’s strength and quality for early-phase drug research.
The efforts to nurture talent and foster innovation reinforce one another. For example, the company’s democratic and humanistic management approach is designed to inspire innovative thinking among employees. “We embrace a bottom-up management style, encouraging employees to speak out, rather than waiting for instructions from the top,” Lee explains.
“Recently we’re creating ‘innovation corners,’ one each on the two floors of our office, where employees can sit and think, meditate, conduct brainstorming, and come up with new ideas,” she says. “The goal is to build a workforce that can respond swiftly and smoothly to the rapid pace of change these days.” And as befits such an innovation-driven enterprise, employees are accorded considerable flexibility in their working time.
Lee also cites the strict code of ethics that all employees in the company – as well as BMS suppliers and vendors – are expected to abide by. “We put patients at the center for our daily work,” Lee says. “High standards of integrity and compliance are uncompromised at BMS because we truly believe we work for patients.”
“After more than half a century of operating in Taiwan, BMS is deeply rooted in this market,” says Lee. “We look back with a sense of achievement on the contributions we’ve made to the health of the Taiwanese public over the decades, and we look forward to continuing to make such contributions for many years to come.”