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Brainiacs in the Bar


The pharma industry doesn’t have always have the best image in the eyes of the public, despite conducting lifesaving research. It has often been said that pharma can do a better job of telling its story – and what better place to do that than in a bar? “Two Scientists Walk Into a Bar” is a new podcast series developed by Genentech where scientists from the company team discuss what they do in the lab and why it matters. According to Robin Snyder, director of science communications at Genentech and the creator of the podcast, the aim is to give “listeners the sense that they’re eavesdropping on some brainiacs ‘talking shop’ over cocktails in a bar”. There will be eight episodes in the first season, with topics ranging from cancer to pain to superbugs.

“We see this podcast as a way to bring science to life and to convey what science means to us. The topics are serious, but the tone of the discussion is breezy, even a little irreverent at times, which is why it’s set in a bar,” says Snyder. “We hope that the scientific community in both industry and academia find it informative and entertaining, but we also hope that it helps bring the excitement of scientific inquiry and drug discovery to non-scientists.”


Snyder says that Genentech is always looking for new ways to showcase the company’s science. “I’m a huge podcast fan so I thought it might be an interesting avenue to explore,” she explains. “Like everything we do at Genentech, the decision to go with the podcast was actually based on data in the end. We did a survey of our postdocs to ask about media consumption habits and were surprised to learn that podcasts were their second most popular source for information behind scientific journals.”


The show is hosted by Jane Grogan (pictured), principal scientist of cancer immunology at Genentech, who previously moonlighted as a radio host during her days as a grad student in Australia. “Jane loved the idea right away, and if you listen to one of our podcasts you can tell how at ease she is and how much she enjoys being ‘on the air’ again,” says Snyder. “Though she did take some convincing because I had to promise her that doing the show wouldn’t involve much time being away from her lab.”

The first episode featured Ira Mellman, Genentech’s Vice President of Cancer Immunology, who discussed breakthroughs in cancer immunology. The second episode featured Morgan Sheng, Vice President of Neuroscience and Molecular Biology, who told the story of how a family of Pakistani street performers helped scientists identify a novel target for treatment.


The podcasts are available online. Episodes are released bi-weekly.

“I think there is a real appetite for this type of accessible science,” says Snyder. “We’ve had a lot of positive feedback from journalists, the scientific community, schools, and, of course, our own employees.”

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About the Author
James Strachan

Over the course of my Biomedical Sciences degree it dawned on me that my goal of becoming a scientist didn’t quite mesh with my lack of affinity for lab work. Thinking on my decision to pursue biology rather than English at age 15 – despite an aptitude for the latter – I realized that science writing was a way to combine what I loved with what I was good at.


From there I set out to gather as much freelancing experience as I could, spending 2 years developing scientific content for International Innovation, before completing an MSc in Science Communication. After gaining invaluable experience in supporting the communications efforts of CERN and IN-PART, I joined Texere – where I am focused on producing consistently engaging, cutting-edge and innovative content for our specialist audiences around the world.

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