BMS Grants to National MS Society, Others Aim for Diversity in Care and Trials

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by Teresa Carvalho |

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The National Multiple Sclerosis Society was among 56 nonprofit organizations chosen by Bristol Myers Squibb to share an $11 million award supporting projects that promote health equity and access to better care across ethnically and racially diverse and underserved communities in the U.S.

Other awarded projects aim to promote diversity in clinical trials, and disease awareness and education among minority and other often overlooked groups, including those in the  multiple sclerosis (MS) community.

The National MS Society will use its grant, whose amount was not specified, for the project“Addressing Health Equity Within the MS Movement.”

A separate grant, given to the Multiple Sclerosis Association of America, will support its effort titled “MSAA Hispanic/Latinx Advisory Board and Integrative Resources.”

The funding stems from a commitment between the company and the Bristol Myers Squibb Foundation to address U.S. health inequalities and promote greater diversity and inclusion in healthcare.

“We are realizing our vision to transform patients’ lives through science as we build upon our company’s strong foundation of addressing global health disparities to become one of the world’s most inclusive biopharma companies,” Adam Lenkowsky, senior vice president and general manager of U.S. commercialization at Bristol Myers Squibb, said in a press release.

This award round is part of  a $150 million company pledge, announced in August 2020, to invest in U.S.-based nonprofits that support people in medically underserved areas regardless of ethnicity, or factors like sexual orientation or level of physically disability. Its four areas of focus are oncology, hematology, immunology, and cardiovascular disease.

“We understand that the need has never been more urgent, and we have made it a priority to focus our capabilities and resources to eliminate the barriers to accessing high-quality care that exist for underserved and vulnerable populations,” Lenkowsky said.

Those chosen for awards under this program range from patient advocacy groups and alliances, to medical societies and nonprofit healthcare organizations. All  “have demonstrated a track record of innovative and effective work in health equity and strong ties to patients and communities,” he said.

Each of the 56 awarded groups need to report on how many people were helped, as well as provide data on the demographics of population served and the donation’s positive impact. Evaluation reports will be required every six months, with a final impact report  filed at the program’s conclusion.

In total, 26 grants were given to groups whose projects focused on disease awareness and education, particularly in Black and Hispanic communities, the gay and lesbian communities, the elderly, and in Asian-American and new immigrant communities, the company reported.

Eleven other grants were awarded to programs supporting greater diversity in clinical trials; 14 went to those aiming to improve healthcare quality and access, including mobile clinics for underserved racial minority communities; and five grants were to support work toward greater diversity in research fellows.

“Collectively, this funding initiative will effect change within the health care ecosystem to positively impact the equitable delivery of quality healthcare,” Lenkowsky said.

Bristol Myers Squibb plans to provide an additional $50 million in grants by 2025 to projects focused on health parity, disease awareness, and education.

Its foundation recently announced a $100 million program to train 250 new clinical investigators who are either ethnic or racial minorities or have demonstrated a commitment to diversity in clinical trials.

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