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Emma Lees

Senior Vice President, Research and Early Development, and
Head of Mechanisms and Cancer Resistance Thematic Research Center,
Bristol Myers Squibb

Scientific discovery offers a multitude of opportunities for all. Role models and mentors play a key part in inspiring women to find career paths and help make a difference to others.

I remember watching a documentary about Marie Curie when I was young and being amazed by her career, particularly as a woman pioneering scientific discovery. It showed me what science could achieve and I was so fascinated that I’d save my pocket money to buy slides for my microscope.

Realising the power of research

While studying Biochemistry at Bristol University I began to see the power of cancer research. This motivated me to study for my PhD at The Imperial Cancer Research Fund – where I became part of a collaborative cancer community. It confirmed that I wanted a career where I could put patients first, using science to help others.

At Bristol Myers Squibb, I’m inspired to focus on designing the right experiments that support those most in need. As a company, we make the most of having the agility of a biotech, with the scale of a global pharmaceutical company.

It showed me what science could achieve and I was so fascinated that I’d save my pocket money to buy slides for my microscope.

Working for innovation

Drug discovery is problem-solving at its best and this is what thrills me. I moved to America in 1990 to pursue this passion and have worked for various pharmaceutical companies over the years. It has never been just a day job for me and I feel privileged that I have the opportunity to help make important and innovative scientific progress, because as we say at Bristol Myers Squibb, ‘there is always more to do’.

Inspiring the next generation

Some people are very deliberate in their next career moves, but that isn’t me. I like pushing myself out of my comfort zone to try new things. I’ve always shared learnings from my own experiences and that’s why I really enjoy mentoring people, because it’s important to work out the right structure to allow people to thrive.

My advice to anyone working in science, especially women, is to be passionate about what you do, recognise when you’re not learning anymore and know when to make career changes.

Emma Lees is Senior Vice President in Research and Early Development at Bristol Myers Squibb, leading its global cancer resistance unit where she explores resistance to treatment therapies.

NO-GB-2200158; June 2022

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