Read the Conversation

EF: What attracted you to make a move to BMS? 

SO: BMS is writing a new chapter that aligns with me at this stage of my career. I love transformation, and I wanted to be part of that. It was the ideal time for me to start so I could actively contribute to the company's and the industry's transformation. This was also a chance for me to bring all the experience I gained outside back to Spain. 

I want to progress my nation and gain more knowledge from this shift. The primary driver of BMS's evolution has been innovation, with a focus on novel therapeutic areas and specific molecules. Our goal is to save patients when there are no other options or the available options are insufficient, and these new areas have a larger unmet demand. Spain is currently at a turning point when it comes to innovation, and I admire how we are approaching science. Our goal is to identify the actual unmet needs in which we may help patients by providing them with opportunities they would not have otherwise had. 

BMS is well known for being a pioneer in the field of immuno-oncology. We changed the way cancer was treated so that the body's immune system could combat the illness. We continued to grow and learn to the point where we were recently granted new approval for a brand-new indication that is used to treat early-stage lung cancer while it is still treatable. You can see a clear reduction in the tumor, which makes surgery easier. We now have 17 reimbursed indications for 10 different tumors. BMS is doing very well in treating the cancer population's unmet needs. 

We are doing similar projects in hematology and disrupting the market by being pioneers in the way we treat diseases in this field. I believe this is the field where we have our biggest pipeline. We need to stop thinking solely about the molecules and start thinking about the platforms. I love how our CEO thinks about science. He focuses on cell therapy, where we extract cells from the patient, manipulate them in a complex process, and restore them to their body. Those cells then fight the disease. It is incredible, and we are the first company to get reimbursement for a CAR-T aimed at multiple myeloma in Spain. We cannot cure multiple myeloma, but we can improve the patient's quality of life and prolong their lives. This is a solution that did not exist before.  

We are also exploring other diseases in the autoimmune field and helping the body use its resources to fight the diseases. We have protein degradation, where proteins incubate a process. They would incubate a receptor so that scaling down does not happen and the disease progression stops. In our scenario, the protein no longer exists; we eliminate the protein, and this is a different method of treatment. We are doing this through internal clinical research and physicians. In the last quarter, we were in the process of acquiring new companies. Mirati is in the targeted therapies market, while Rayzebio is in radiopharmaceuticals. This is a new method of treatment for more advanced types of cancer. There is so much innovation, and that is why I am so passionate about being part of this journey. 

There are two types of innovation that we have in Spain. The first is the number of clinical trials, and I would like to acknowledge the great work of the agency and the Ministry of Health for their collaboration, which played a key role in making Spain more competitive versus other markets in facilitating and accelerating clinical trials. We are ranked fifth in terms of investment in clinical trials and innovation. Our investment is worth 50 million euros. We have 112 clinical trials in Spain, covering 3200 patients. We also have 750 centers involved, and that is only possible because we have talented clinicians involved in running these trials. It is great to be part of this work, as we are ranked second in the world after the USA for the number of clinical trials and patients involved. Fifty-seven percent of our clinical trials are in phases one and two, while 80 percent are in hematology and oncology. 

We have not forgotten about autoimmune diseases. For example, we are launching an oral psoriasis treatment to complement our portfolio. We are also working with the government and clinicians on a rare disease called Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. It can sometimes be asymptomatic and deadly for some patients. There is no treatment for that disease, but we are working towards creating one. We also have an interest in multiple sclerosis.  

We have e a development center outside of the US called CITRE. It is in Sevilla and led by an incredible leader and science visionary, Matthew Trotter. The CITRE team is international and consists of talent from all over the world. This is a translational science center and has three areas of expertise. We use advanced informatics, including artificial intelligence, to identify target areas of disease from which we can identify potential molecules to treat that disease. Everything can be done virtually, and that helps with efficiency and speed. It used to take 10 to 12 years to launch a molecule, and patients cannot wait that long, so we are trying to further shorten the time it takes to launch. 

We also have translational science, where clinicians are developing the next therapies. We also have people working on early-stage development clinical trials. Many companies have centers for clinical trials, but it is rare for these centers to be focused on early development. I am proud that we have one in Spain. It is a pioneer in Sevilla, and it is working quite well. This is the extent of our investment in Spain. 

EF: Collaboration is key to the heart of BMS. How do you work with different stakeholders to advance the industry? 

SO: Collaboration is critical. The numerous clinical trials in Spain are a result of good collaboration with the regulatory agencies and the people that we have there. Collaboration is the only way to make progress, and we are doing it with key stakeholders in the government and other organizations. We are collaborating with more than 40 projects with patient associations so that we can hear their voices and needs. Internally, we have four working groups focused on fostering diversity and inclusion. We work under the umbrella of four aspects: generational, gender, LGBT people, and people with disabilities.  

We run numerous projects under these groups, both internally and externally. For example, we run programs to support women who are at risk of exclusion from the workplace. We are also partnering with kids in football to help them understand the importance of exercising and eating nutritious meals. We are thinking of other ways to expand into areas where we can support kids and entities that support different programs there. We work with the Oncology Association and are involved in numerous collaborations to raise funds and give back to the community. 

We had more than 30 activities in 2023 across three different projects. We ran an activity focused on menopause. Sixty-six percent of the population is female, and a significant portion is in menopause. We may not have a drug to help them through this time, but we must look after the community.  

Talent is an important part of our success. We have been looking at our development plans and shifting people to roles more suited to their skills. For example, we moved some people from marketing to sales because we identified that they had the skills required to excel in that field. Our talent has a desire to grow and develop professionally. Moving them around the company helps achieve this goal and gives them a broader perspective. This is one of the most critical elements of talent development. Making sure that our diverse team members feel heard and included is one of our top priorities. For example, our LGBT staff requested a gender-neutral bathroom, and we were able to accommodate this easily. This had a big impact on their job satisfaction.  

Culture is another aspect I wanted to transform in BMS's new chapter. Hierarchy is one of the things that I am trying to break and evolve. Spain is more hierarchical than I thought. It is a modern country in many ways, but it is quite surprising that it is very hierarchical. I believe in equality and that we all have the same voice, and we need to listen to each other. I am working hard to empower people to build a culture of speaking up and trust where hierarchies are not important.  

I have done a few symbolic things to break the hierarchal system. For example, I do not sit at the end of the table at meetings. I now sit in the middle or various other positions. In the beginning, this made my team quite nervous, but they eventually got used to me sitting all over the table. I am also a fan of fun icebreakers that put people at ease and make them feel equal. I want to develop a company culture where people feel empowered and heard. I want people to be able to make mistakes that they can learn from. People feel more fulfilled and produce better results. Revenues are an outcome of a job well done. If we do everything to be the best leaders, collaborators, and peers, we will have a better impact on our patients and clinicians. 

EF: What is BMS doing to foster a culture of sustainability to build sustainable healthcare systems? 

SO: It is important that we think of innovation and focus on areas where there is an unmet need. This is what the government and patients are expecting of us. We need to bring value, especially where it is needed. We also need to have reasonable and responsible pricing. Concerning the new technologies we are introducing, we know that we need to make it more efficient. We need to bring innovation at reasonable prices to plug the gaps in the system that exclude patients who have been excluded.  

We have also been helping the environment and reducing our emissions by 20.7 percent. We also reduced our water consumption by 10.8 percent. We also aim to have a fleet of electric vehicles by 2030. This is not an easy task, as we need the infrastructure that will support these changes. These are our goals for achieving sustainability and protecting the environment. 

EF: Do you have a final message you would like to share with our readers? 

SO: Making healthcare sustainable requires the government to help us protect our patents. Generic companies can be aggressive, and we need to be mindful of patents and patent protection. We launched five products in 2023, and we will keep launching products for rare diseases in the foreseeable future. We are launching two more new products and at least one more indication. We will keep working on accelerating innovation and being a leader in clinical trials through collaboration with the government. I would like to encourage a culture shift to focus more on diversity and eliminate inefficient hierarchies. 

February 2024