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A long, fruitful collaboration: Bristol-Myers Squibb and Yale

Medicine@Yale, 2005 - June July


Thirty-year partnership fosters innovations in education and research

Continuing a partnership with the School of Medicine that was forged more than 30 years ago, the Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. has renewed its fellowship support for graduate students in the Combined Program in the Biological and Biomedical Sciences at Yale.

The Combined Program, commonly known as the BBS Program, has transformed the university’s graduate education in the life sciences since its inception in 1996. At that time, Bristol-Myers Squibb (BMS) made a substantial, multiyear gift that contributed decisively to both the initial success of the BBS Program and its long-term effectiveness.

Directed by Lynn Cooley, Ph.D., professor of genetics and cell biology, the program spans faculty and laboratories in both the School of Medicine and on Science Hill, where the life sciences departments of Yale’s Graduate School of Arts and Sciences are located. Underpinning the program is the conviction that educational structures should reflect the increasingly fluid, interdisciplinary nature of biological science. Students select an area of study—such as immunology or neuroscience—but they choose courses and lab work in numerous departments which together comprise more than 285 faculty.

For Tomomi Tsubouchi, a member of the BBS Class of 2005, the final year of the program has been a heady experience. Tsubouchi uses yeast to study the basic mechanism of cell division known as meiosis, and she recently observed a chromosomal process that had never been seen since meiosis was discovered in the 1880s. This May, Tsubouchi and her mentor, G. Shirleen Roeder, Ph.D., Eugene Higgins Professor of Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology, published the findings in the journal Science.

Tsubouchi says that the BBS program has broadened her scientific horizons. “I hope that what I do will affect medicine in some way,” she says, “so I’m glad that BBS has combined biology and medicine in one big program.”

Bristol-Myers Squibb’s support for the BBS Program is part of a broader collaboration with Yale to advance shared educational objectives. For example, the Yale/Bristol-Myers Squibb Educational Alliance— also set up in 1996—has enabled Yale graduate students to gain exposure to private-sector biomedical research through summer rotations at BMS’ research and development campus in nearby Wallingford, Conn.

For more than three decades, BMS—or Bristol-Myers, as the company was known prior to its 1990 merger with Squibb—has encouraged Yale education and research in genetics, therapeutics for cancer and HIV and perinatal medicine. Most recently, the School of Nursing’s Program for the Advancement of Chronic Wound Care, an effort to devise clinical “best practices” for wound treatment, got under way in 2002 with support from the BMS Foundation and BMS’s ConvaTec unit. And with the guidance of Michael H. Merson, M.D., the Anna M.R. Lauder Professor of Public Health, the foundation has recruited Yale experts to evaluate the effectiveness of its Secure the Future initiative, which supports community-based initiatives in Southern and West Africa aimed at stemming the AIDS pandemic.

Last September, Dean Robert J. Alpern M.D., and Yale University President Richard C. Levin hosted BMS Chairman and CEO Peter R. Dolan, M.B.A., and other senior executives at a celebration of the alliance and other collaborations between BMS and Yale. Alpern and Dolan joined John Damonti, president of the BMS Foundation, and Francis Cuss, M.D., BMS senior vice president for drug discovery, for an unveiling ceremony in Sterling Hall of Medicine, where a permanent plaque now honors the company’s extraordinary contributions to medical research and education at Yale.

“When you think about the history of this collaboration, it is truly impressive,” says Levin. “It helped shape the direction and range of intellectual activity at the School of Medicine.” For his part, BMS’ Dolan offers a succinct assessment of the company’s long relationship with Yale: “We are all better off.”