The BMS Experience Managing a Major Transformation

2020 has been a big year for American biopharmaceutical company Bristol Meyers Squibb (BMS). Its blockbuster US$74 billion acquisition last year of biotech firm Celgene positions BMS as the number one oncology hematology company worldwide. What this merger means for the Taiwan BMS affiliate is not only a portfolio expansion, doubling the number of key products the company offers, but also a promising pipeline in hematology, oncology and immune-science.

“Prior to the acquisition, BMS has made a huge contribution in curbing Taiwan’s high rate of hepatitis B, treating over 130,000 patients since 2006.  In 2016 we launched immuno-oncology therapy putting us at the forefront in the fight against cancer. Immuno-oncology works with the patient’s immune system, to destroy cancer cells and can help patients with different type of cancers such as lung, gastric and liver cancer. Celgene on the other hand, was known for its leadership in hematology, specifically in multiple myeloma, a rare blood cancer” says Eva Gubern, general manager of BMS Taiwan.

The revolution of BMS’ product portfolio also necessitated that the company and Gubern’s team undergo a similar transformation. It required the acquisition not only of new hard skills – learning about new product specifications, new products, digital capabilities – but a number of soft skills as well.

Gubern got to work launching two big initiatives aimed at improving her own and her team’s ability to smoothly navigate and contribute to the integration process taking place at BMS. Rolling out affiliate wide workshops on emotional intelligence in change management and on building resilience.

“This program was really about building trust by showing vulnerability sharing our emotions, and understanding what triggers those feelings,” Gubern says. “This has brought about a shift in the culture of the company. We are speaking our minds more and are encouraging the inclusion of different points of view.” The other initiative she introduced was geared toward improving employee resilience, a factor that is vital for adapting to major changes or challenging situations in the work environment.

“Changes this big can be over-whelming, so in our resilience workshop, we worked on identifying our circles of influence and circles of control, she says. “We then looked at how we can be more accountable, make space for work-life balance, and take time off to disconnect.”

BMS is also dedicated to fostering diversity and inclusion in the workplace. Of the business and resource groups formed both in Taiwan and globally, Gubern proudly highlights CLIMB (Cultivating Leadership and Innovation for Millennials and Beyond), which focuses on talent development among the company’s younger employees, and the Pride Alliance for LGBTQ+ inclusion. Given Taiwan’s recent codification of marriage equality into law, BMS formed Asia’s very first LGBTQ chapter within the company, and BMS Taiwan’s Pride Alliance formally joined the Pride Parade in Taipei for the first time on October 31st.

The focus BMS places on its employees ties into its core mission of providing innovative products to patients. As part of its CSR efforts in previous years, the company made a point of being out in the field, visiting hospitals and working in person with underprivileged groups. But the COVID-19 pandemic has forced it to think outside the box this year on ways to continue giving back to society while still keeping employees safe.

For the company’s signature CSR program, Global Patient Week, BMS Taiwan this year is hosting the “Love, No Distance: Roadside Running” event both virtually and on-site. For each kilometer an employee completed, the company donates money to local charity.

Looking ahead, BMS seeks to continue leveraging the latest technological advancements in medicine to provide patients with the best treatments possible. For her part, Gubern says that having worked with health systems on four different continents, Taiwan has some of the best in class medical data maintained by the National Health Insurance Administration.  While access to the vast store of medical data is not available for commercial use, it has the potential to provide treatments using big data and AI. Such solutions could predict patient outcomes and adverse events, allowing for more accurate and effective treatment.

Gubern cites Taiwan’s enthusiasm for developing its medical technology capabilities, particularly in the areas of biomedicine and AI. “This is something that we’re very much in line with the government on,” she says. “We hope to continue working with our local partners to explore this unique area.”