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The Oxford - Bristol Myers Squibb (BMS) Fellowships Programme continued to demonstrate significant progress over the last year, despite the challenges associated with the global pandemic, including restricted lab access and work from home guidance. Today, we are pleased to announce six new Oxford-BMS Fellowships for 2021.

Female scientist in labcoat wearing nitrile gloves, doing experiments in lab,

The Oxford-Bristol Myers Squibb Fellowship Programme was established in 2015 with the aim of stimulating new scientific discovery and translation and to generate a cohort of scientists that can navigate within and across both academic and industry spheres to bridge translational challenges. Oxford’s relationship with Bristol Myers Squibb continues to grow year on year, with the new 2021 fellowships taking the total of Oxford-Bristol Myers Squibb Fellows to over 30.

The popularity of the programme was apparent again this year with 24 high-quality applications.  The BMS-Oxford selection committee faced the difficult task of selecting a subset of these for funding in this cycle based on alignment with BMS research areas and co-mentor expertise, preliminary data and plausibility, and applicability to translation of the hypotheses being tested.

The new Oxford-BMS Fellowships will support six postdoctoral researchers and clinicians across six departments within the Medical Sciences Division and Mathematical, Physical and Life Sciences Division, providing an opportunity for them to gain exposure to the field of commercial drug discovery and development.

The six new Fellowships for 2021

Fellow Project Principal Investigators
Roshan Xavier Novel biomarkers of cardiopulmonary function in heart failure with preserved ejection fraction using exercise magnetic resonance Andrew Lewis (Department of Physiology, Anatomy and Genetics), Stefan Neubauer and Oliver Rider (Radcliffe Department of Medicine)
TBC Frozen shoulder: A human disease model of resolving inflammatory fibrosis Stephanie Dakin and Christopher Buckley (Nuffield Department of Orthopaedics, Rheumatology and Musculoskeletal Sciences)
Charlotte Palmer Exploring Polycomb repressive complex as therapeutic targets in high risk multiple myeloma patient subsets Udo Oppermann and Adam Cribbs (Nuffield Department of Orthopaedics, Rheumatology and Musculoskeletal Sciences), Karthik Ramasamy (Radcliffe Department of Medicine)
TBC Novel inhibitors of immune receptor signalling Ricardo Fernandes (Nuffield Department of Medicine Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences Oxford Institute)
TBC Assessing and targeting adaptive epithelial-stromal-immune co-evolution solid tumours Simon Leedham (Nuffield Department of Medicine), Elizabeth Mann and Mark Coles (Nuffield Department of Orthopaedics, Rheumatology and Musculoskeletal Sciences)
TBC Translational investigation of lysolipids as a therapeutic target for neuroinflammatory and neuro-degenerative disorders Sridhar Vasudevan (Department of Pharmacology), Russell Foster and Aarti Jagannath (Nuffield Department of Clinical Neurosciences)

Oxford is grateful to Bristol Myers Squibb (BMS) for granting qualifying extensions to accommodate delays, and for running the 2021 call for Fellowships, with the engagement of many Bristol Myers Squibb scientists in the process. The 2021 Fellowships competition went ahead with learnings from the experience of 2020 with all scoping meetings happening virtually in the absence of the annual opportunity for face-to-face meetings with Bristol Myers Squibb scientists. 

 

At Bristol Myers Squibb, we are delighted to continue our support of this exciting and innovative programme focussed on bringing emerging novel scientific concepts closer to the clinic with the potential of delivering real value to our patients in the future. This programme will advance translational research through the support of talented fellows mentored by top investigators at the University.  This is an important opportunity for us to build the next generation of translational scientists providing them with the opportunity to learn from experienced senior scientists from both academic and industry backgrounds. This Fellowship Programme has been very successful over the past 6 years and has produced a number of impressive translational scientists who have moved onto senior positions.
Jim Carmichael, Vice President Integrative Sciences (Bristol Myers Squibb)

As with all Oxford-Bristol Myers Squibb Fellows, the new Fellows will carry out world-leading research during their three-year postdoctoral research project and have a unique level of support available to them through the collaborations. Fellows also benefit from the direction and mentorship of Bristol Myers Squibb project leads and have opportunities to carry out research and use facilities at Bristol Myers Squibb labs in the US and Spain, in addition to accessing unique training opportunities.

 

‘I am very pleased to receive an Oxford-Bristol Myers Squibb fellowship to study novel imaging biomarkers in Heart failure with preserved ejection fraction at OCMR with Dr. Lewis, Professor Rider and Professor Neubauer. HFpEF has proven challenging to develop therapeutic options for thus far and this fellowship provides a unique opportunity for academia and pharma to come together to address this area of need. Coming from a clinical training programme in London, I am grateful to be able to work with a world-leading group based at the University of Oxford as well as industry experts from Bristol Myers Squibb. We are excited to collaborate on this study and hope to be able to develop innovative tools which will help improve diagnosis and aid in future drug development for this growing global health issue.’ – Roshan Xavier, Fellow for 2021 Oxford-Bristol Myers Squibb Fellowship

Fellows who have complete the programme have gone on to exciting positions in both academia and industry. Examples include past Fellow Heidi Olzscha who now holds a professorship position at MSH Medical School Hamburg and past fellow Stephanie Slevin who now works as a Senior Cell Biologist at Exscientia.

Bristol Myers Squibb’s mission to discover, develop and deliver innovative medicines that help patients prevail over serious diseases aligns well with Oxford’s research strengths. Current projects are running across several departments within Oxford’s Medical Sciences and Mathematical, Physical and Life Sciences Divisions, tackling challenging questions in acute myeloid leukaemia, Parkinson’s and a number of inflammatory diseases.

 

‘We are delighted to receive an Oxford-Bristol Myers Squibb Fellowship and look forward to establishing a fruitful and collaborative partnership. Our study aims to identify the distinct cell types and molecules responsible for driving inflammatory fibrosis in frozen shoulder, a common painful and debilitating musculoskeletal disease. This strong collaborative link between academia and pharma will help to reveal the cellular basis of inflammatory fibrosis. The Fellowship provides a unique opportunity to catalyse the development of new therapeutic strategies that selectively target or deplete pathogenic cell types, informing new therapies for patients with inflammatory fibrotic disease.’
- Stephanie Dakin (Nuffield Department of Orthopaedics, Rheumatology and Musculoskeletal Sciences, University of Oxford), Principal Investigator for 2021 Oxford-Bristol Myers Squibb Fellowship

 

‘We are delighted to receive an Oxford-Bristol Myers Squibb Fellowship to advance the development of engineered molecules to overcome inhibitory checkpoint receptor signalling in immune cells. This is a fantastic opportunity made possible by a close partnership between Oxford University and Bristol Myers Squibb to allow talented Fellows to take on high-risk, high-reward projects in a supportive environment with access to outstanding resources. We are excited to discover new ways to control signalling by checkpoint receptors and look forward to the potential translational applications of this work.’ – Ricardo Fernandes (CAMS Oxford Institute, University of Oxford), Principal Investigator for 2021 Oxford-Bristol Myers Squibb Fellowship

Spearheaded by Professor Sir Marc Feldmann FRS of the University of Oxford and Rupert Vessey, M.A., B.M., B.Ch., F.R.C.P., D.Phil., Executive Vice President, Research & Early Development, Bristol Myers Squibb, this active alliance between Bristol Myers Squibb and Oxford catalyses translational research and equips a cohort of researchers with an in-depth, real-world understanding of how research and development works within the biopharma industry. This has the long-term potential to lead to new discoveries that could benefit patients.

 

‘It's been a pleasure to have helped create the Oxford-Bristol Myers Squibb, previously Oxford-Celgene fellowship scheme, together with my industry colleagues Rupert Vessey and his predecessor Tom Daniel (former Head of Research at Celgene). They had the vision to realize that well trained and motivated scientists are a rate-limiting step, they are the ones that drive effective drug discovery, and that there was a gap in the training options. They also realized that the training scheme and the ensuing collaborations have the potential to benefit Bristol Myers Squibb drug discovery efforts. Sharing resources, clinical samples, technology and ideas has benefited both parties. The calibre of the applicants reinforces the strength and potential for this programme.’ - Marc Feldmann (Kennedy Institute of Rheumatology), University of Oxford 

Both Bristol Myers Squibb and the University of Oxford draw value from the opportunity to facilitate skills transfer between researchers in academia and industry and to stimulate new scientific discovery and translation. This collaboration benefits from dedicated alliance managers Dr Charlotte Bell and Amira Burshan at Oxford and Mike Patten at Bristol Myers Squibb. They provide points of contact and help catalyse interactions while supporting the Fellows’ programme through the provision of dedicated training and networking events.

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