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Work with a Mission: Cell Therapy Scientist and Manager on Pursuing One’s Passions

January 4, 2024
Cell TherapyGlobal Product Development and SupplyImpactInnovation
Careers Home  /  Career Stories  /  Work with a Mission: Cell Therapy Scientist and Manager on Pursuing One’s Passions

They may be situated on opposite sides of the country, but senior scientist Milan Patel in Seattle, WA, and senior manager Bobby Hewlett in Devens, MA, are of one mind when it comes to the dedication and passion they bring to their careers within Bristol Myers Squibb’s Cell Therapy division.

Had You Considered a Career in Commercial Pharma During Your Academic Career?


Headshot of Milan
Milan Patel, Senior Scientist, Cellular Phenotype, Cell Therapy Development Organization, BMS Seattle, WA

Both spent much of their graduate education thinking that their future would continue in academic research. After working on PhD projects focused on early research, Milan found a different level of satisfaction in projects that focused on patient treatments. “I realized it was more fulfilling to do work where I had more of an effect on patient outcomes,” he said. “That’s when I began more career research in the fields I was interested in, along with making contacts and getting to know the people and companies who were doing that work.”

“Cell therapy was definitely not what I was considering when I was in school,” Bobby added. “But when I graduated, my first opportunity was in quality control (QC). I spent some time in process development, analytics and biologics – a little closer to the research side of things, but I felt removed from the patient. With cell therapy, it’s the complete opposite. It’s personalized medicine and there’s no other person getting the batch that you’re working on.”

Did You Find a Career at BMS That Met Your Expectations?

Milan also concluded that the type of work he’s doing in BMS Cell Therapy is exactly what he hoped to be doing after his schooling. “I wanted to be a scientist, and that’s what I do,” he said. “I wanted to see the impact of my work right away, and that’s where I am – developing methods for Phase I and II clinical trials.”

Bobby’s work as senior manager of QC analytical technical support comes even further down the process operation than Milan’s. “We’re really at the very end, essentially just before the product goes to the patient. It’s really impactful and it’s a constant reminder that everything we do at BMS comes back to the patient.”

When speaking of the day-to-day roles and responsibilities of each of these two senior positions, one can sense the differences in each of their scopes, while also imagining the much larger range of careers available within such an important function as cell therapy within BMS.

“As senior scientist cellular phenotype, my work focuses on determining the strength of the drug product,” said Milan. “Since the products are patient-specific and derived from their own cells, we help to calculate that dose. We use a number of processes and analytics to measure and characterize what those modifications can be.”

What Is the Day-to-Day Like at BMS?

“Days in QC can vary a lot,” added Bobby. “With the personalized aspect of cell therapy, there are new sets of challenges with each lot, and they need to be turned around quickly. It keeps me engaged and motivated and one day can look very different than the next, which I like. Some days I’m working with my team, helping to develop their skill sets. But I might get pulled into a compliance event or helping to review a data set. It really varies a lot.”

As a senior scientist focusing on phase I and phase II trials, Milan’s day-to-day can be a bit more similar than Bobby’s in QC, but being in Seattle, the global aspect of team calls with labs in NJ, Germany and the UK can add variety and flexibility to his schedule.

“If I have an early morning meeting with Europe,” he explained, “I can take the call from home and start my commute after that. But usually, after my meetings my days are spent in the lab, analyzing data, writing and reviewing reports, helping out with strategies for different drug products in development or early research, and providing life-cycle support to drugs already out at clinical sites. I really enjoy the collaboration between different people to solve problems. It’s very rewarding.”

Are Growth Opportunities Available at BMS?

Career growth opportunities is a critical pillar in the BMS employee value proposition, one that resonates with candidates of all levels, and one that BMS colleagues value, including Milan and Bobby.

“I’ve had great opportunities at BMS,” said Bobby. “And a fairly big career leap in a short amount of time. My new position is a lot more management-focused, so I’m very much in a learning and growth mode, but I definitely see myself moving forward in this type of position, be it in quality or shifting to another function in cell therapy or even biologics at BMS.”

Milan concurred. “Yes, there’s definitely room and opportunity to grow within BMS,” he said. “They’re very helpful and supportive in growing our careers. I can see myself growing into more of a management position, having more direct reports and managing the development of more projects.”

How Important Is Inclusion and Diversity Within BMS?

Those growing management roles and responsibilities come with the opportunity to lead and be led by the incredibly inclusive and diverse workforce that makes BMS what it is today. Varied backgrounds and experience, ages, ethnicities and differently-abled people are the backbone of our talented business units and teams. Milan and Bobby enthusiastically weighed in.

“Different backgrounds are represented in different groups,” said Milan. “That means varied support and different perspectives that benefit all of us. A collaborative environment like this is needed to advance the huge effort to make our cell therapy products successful.”

“Diversity can’t be understated,” added Bobby. “It’s so important to get different perspectives from different backgrounds. It helps you solve problems in ways you might not have considered. That circles back to impact on the patients which is number one for everyone working in this company. And that sets BMS apart.”

Set yourself and your career apart by exploring the huge range of opportunities available in cell therapy operations. Bobby's and Milan’s paths to career satisfaction began with a search around our careers website and continues with both professional and personal growth.