Shawn He and Team Introduce New Cancer Therapies to China
Shawn He, Senior Director of Hematology Clinical Research for Bristol Myers Squibb, has always had a passion for helping people.
That’s what inspired him to begin his career practicing medicine—working as a clinical physician in his home country of China, where he specialized in helping patients who struggled with rare blood cancers such as chronic myelogenous leukemia.
But Shawn quickly came to realize that an opportunity existed for him to help even more people than just the patients he treated one-on-one.
That realization began a journey that would eventually lead him to joining Bristol Myers Squibb – a decision he’d make not just once, but twice in his career – the second time specifically because of the opportunity BMS offered to help more people than ever before.
Helping Patients on a Larger Scale
Shawn began his career as a physician, working directly with cancer patients.
“I was trained in hematology,” Shawn explains, “and in clinical practice, I dealt with patients
with different hematology malignancies. Through that, I got to have hands-on experience managing patients who were treated with certain cancer drugs, and I saw those drugs helping them.”
Having witnessed the effectiveness of some of these drugs firsthand, Shawn found himself becoming an advocate for innovative medicines whenever he participated in medical fairs and conferences across China.
“I traveled quite a lot across the country to discuss clinical data with leading carriers,” he explains. As more of them adopted the innovative medicines he was advocating for as a treatment option, “I felt like I was getting to help patients at an even larger scale than I could as a physician.”
That’s what inspired Shawn to shift the focus of his career from physician to researcher—joining Bristol Myers Squibb in 2013 so he could provide Chinese medical institutions and insurance carriers with academic data that demonstrated the safety and efficacy of therapies produced by BMS. It was work that could transform the lives of patients – and transform Shawn's career as well.
“By joining BMS and working on something I'm familiar with—both the drug and the disease—I got to do something clinically meaningful even though I wasn’t directly treating patients one-on-one,” he explained.
Advocating for Better Treatment
After five years with Bristol Myers Squibb, Shawn took a short break from the company in 2018. However, he was inspired to rejoin BMS after learning about its 2019 acquisition of the Celgene Corporation.
“Hematology is really where my passion is,” Shawn said. “And after the merger of Celgene and BMS in 2019, I saw that BMS now had a very big hematology pipeline. I wanted to introduce these pipelines into China.”
Shawn explained that there’s a “drug gap” between China and the rest of the world – one he observed first-hand when treating patients for chronic blood cancers. With the acquisition of Celgene, Shawn believes BMS is now uniquely positioned to help bridge that gap.
“We have many very good drugs in the United States and the European Union that we didn't yet have in China,” Shawn explains. “I rejoined BMS because I want to bring those drugs here.”
Shawn and his team have already had some success.
“Last year, on the merits of clinical trials outside China, the health authority approved a BMS therapy to treat beta-thalassemia patients. We have a high prevalence of thalassemia in southeast China, and there's no standard of care for those patients.”
In fact, the appearance of thalassemia—a genetic disorder—in southeast China can be up to 10 times higher than in other areas of China.
With support from the global team, Shawn and his team used global data to demonstrate the efficacy and safety of the drug that would benefit Chinese beta-thalassemia patients. This global data convinced the health authority to bypass the three years of clinical studies that would normally be needed to approve a new drug in China.
“We’re successfully bringing this drug into China three years early,” Shawn stated.
The Opportunity to Make a Difference
In Shawn’s role at BMS, he works with six physicians who report directly to him in China, plus a global team who provide support and resources for his work. One observation he’s had about his colleagues at BMS is that they are all collaborating to solve the toughest challenges while working alongside some of the best and brightest minds in the industry. It's not easy work, but it is rewarding.
“When I talk to my colleagues about why they joined BMS, they agree it’s because the work is meaningful and interesting,” Shawn said. “The passion, the accountability, the sense of urgency –that's something we all share with each other.”
Shawn is currently on a "Tour of Duty" with BMS in New Jersey. These Tours provide opportunities for any BMS employee, including those in China, to further their learning and development within or outside their specialty over a certain period of time. It's just one way that BMS champions the sharing of knowledge, science and culture in service of our mission to transform patients' lives through science in all regions of the globe.
If you share Shawn’s dedication to helping people and global team collaboration, explore the growing number of opportunities BMS has open for candidates in China – and consider joining the mission to provide patients across China with access to medicines that can transform their quality of life.
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