Seattle biotech vet Justine Dell’Aringa sees parallels in science while building her own home

Justine Dell’Aringa is part of a Bristol Myers Squibb team that has helped develop two approved T cell therapies (CARs). (Photo courtesy of Justine Dell’Aringa)

At home and at work, Justine Dell’Aringa is ready for a challenge.

Associate Scientific Director of Translational Research for Bristol Immuno-Oncology and Cell Therapy Thematic Research Center Myers Squibb is a biotechnology industry veteran in Seattle. She has spent 21 years in the field and feels lucky to have contributed to a handful of successful therapies.

At home, the mother-of-two built a new home alongside her husband, adding extra spice to a year in which the pandemic could have been enough for most families.

“As this challenge pretty much dominated our lives – with the pandemic, working from home and distance education – I was struck by the number of parallels between the house-building process and the scientific work I do. “said Dell” Aringa, our last Geek of the week. “Solving problems, being agile and adaptable, learning new tools and processes and, most importantly, strong collaborations are fundamental for both activities. “

Dell’Aringa is part of a team of Bristol Myers Squibb which contributed to the development of two chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) approved T cell therapies.

But she admits that it takes “a painfully long time and enormous resources and effort” to successfully discover and develop new cancer therapies.

PREVIOUSLY: Bristol Myers Squibb’s $ 74 billion acquisition of Juno’s parent company Celgene puts Seattle biotech world on high alert

“We are in an exciting time when access to advanced technologies has the potential to deepen our understanding of cancer and the immune system,” she said.

Dell’Aringa is currently leading scientists whose job it is to analyze samples taken from patients in order to assess the immune system in the context of the disease they are studying. The team is comparing the tumor and immune response of patients who respond to treatment with those who do not. The information is used to develop biomarkers that can identify future patients who will benefit from treatment as well as to aid in the development of next generation therapies.

“I am passionate about this work because I can see the impacts on the lives of patients, and I believe we are at the forefront of next generation cancer treatments,” said Dell’Aringa.

Being part of that team – and watching her new home rise – the Inspired Guard.

Learn more about our last Geek of the week, Justine Dell’Aringa:

What’s the most important thing people should know about your field? That game-changing cancer treatments are being developed and are starting to come online. My team and I at Bristol Myers Squibb are harnessing the human immune system to change cancer treatment and bringing life-changing therapies to more patients as quickly as possible. We take the patient’s immune cells, modify them so they can target cancer, and then inject them back into the patient to fight the cancer cells. We are able to do this thanks to all the new technologies which are developed in the field thanks to many years of research. A large part of my translational research work is to ensure that new technologies are used to their full potential. There has been a big jump in the number of new tools in the toolbox, and they can do a lot of amazing new things. The challenge is to understand all of these new capabilities and apply them effectively to gain practical insight into how patients respond to our new innovative therapies in our clinical trials.

Where do you find your inspiration? At people’s Place. My colleagues inspire me in particular and challenge me on a daily basis. I have never seen people so dedicated to their work as the teams who contributed to our two recently approved US Food and Drug Administration CAR T cell therapies. I am inspired by the dedication to the patients I see on our teams. I am inspired by the many patient stories I hear with happy results and remind myself by the sad stories that we still have a lot of work ahead of us. I am inspired by the knowledge, creativity and leadership I witness around me, as well as the commitment to collaboration that I see when we face challenges. It’s amazing what people can do when they come together for a common cause.

What’s the only technology you couldn’t live without, and why? My hand lever espresso machine. Because I love coffee and also get something out of practice – it’s been a few years since I’ve been in the lab.

Justine Dell’Aringa and her family in the house building area. (Photo courtesy of Justine-DellAringa)

What does your workspace look like and why does it work for you? My home workspace is a MESS! Did I mention that we are at the end of a major construction project? My family and I called our 400 square foot country home for 14 months at the start of the pandemic while we demolished our outdated 700 square foot home and built our new home. At that time, I was working on a small plywood desk that my husband had built for me that would fit into the small attic where my children slept (think of going up and down a ladder). I recently moved my office out of the chalet mezzanine and into the attic of our nearly completed home. I am currently working on a folding table using a repurposed TV as a monitor surrounded by building materials, luggage, and holiday decorations while waiting for storage space to be completed. I have a very nice ergonomic office chair that my neighbor lent me. One of the advantages of the pandemic is that we have become very close to our neighbors.

Your best tip or tip for dealing with work and everyday life. (Help us, we need it.) I try to be in the moment as much as possible. By juggling a full-time job, a full-time construction project, and two young children, I’ve learned that every moment counts. It is important to focus on attentive listening during meetings and to take the time to connect with loved ones.

Mac, Windows or Linux? The Windows.

Favorite superhero or sci-fi character? Wonder Woman.

Transporter, time machine or invisibility cloak? Time Machine, so I can travel back in time to retrieve the teleporter and invisibility cloak (in that order).

If someone gave me $ 1 million to start a startup, I would … consider starting a specialized laboratory focused on offering new technologies for exploratory research on clinical samples.

I once stood in line for … Tilth AllianceMay sale of edible plants.

Your models: My parents. They are both incredibly hardworking, resilient, generous and compassionate.

The greatest game in history: Chess.

Best gadget ever: iPhone.

First computer: Something you might find in a computer museum now, I think it was a Vectra PC-308 in the mid-90s.

Current phone: iPhone 7.

Preferred application: Back then, it was Pinterest because their image recognition technology was very helpful in designing and sourcing materials for our DIY building project.

Preferred cause: Sustainable agriculture and food security.

Most important technology of 2021: The synthetic mRNA technology used to produce the coronavirus vaccines by Pfizer-bioNTech and Moderna is an incredible scientific advance at a pivotal time. The revolutionary success of mRNA technology is a prime example of the importance of persistence in science. Decades of trial and error finally led Drs. Katalin Kariko and Drew Weissman at a significant breakthrough that advanced technology making possible the development of coronavirus vaccines at unprecedented speed during a global pandemic.

Most important technology of 2023: In the clinical exploratory research space, I believe advancements in the applications of relatively new technologies such as single cell sequencing, spatial profiling, spectral / high dimensional flow cytometry, and platforms to assess DNA circulating tumor will be applied more regularly and provide more in-depth biological information to help us explore how the human immune system works in the context of the disease we are studying and generate impactful data sets to inform our clinical development pipelines and drug discovery.

Last advice for your geek friends: My advice to other geeks is to let your passion be your guide and when you come across a challenge, be persistent, be collaborative, and seek out diverse perspectives. And if you’re stuck, take a step back, seek perspective, and trust that you find a solution that will move your work forward.

Website: Bristol Myers Squibb Profile.

LinkedIn: Justine Dell’Aringa