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Business & Regulation Marketing, Digital Technologies

The Pills Are Alive…

You’ve heard of chamber music, lounge music, and elevator music. Now prepare to meet… lab music. And by “lab” we don’t mean Dr Dre’s recording studio, we’re talking actual laboratories – the pharmaceutical laboratories of Sanofi, to be precise.

In April, SoundCloud account “The Sounds of Sanofi” dropped its very first track: Stir, Stir, Stir, followed by five more with titles connoting everything from studio-era technicolor Hollywood (The Sound of Solution), to postwar dad rock (Tornado in a Test Tube), all the way to 90s euroclub dancefloors (Mix to the Max).

But what do the Sounds of Sanofi… sound like? Well, they’re a little more austere than their titles suggest. Every track is a recording of Sanofi lab equipment at work, with no accompaniment. No strings, no drums, no power chords, and no patented Sanofi saxophone. A series of 25-second videos posted across Sanofi’s social media channels provide some elucidation. Each video is a one shot closeup of lab equipment soaked in a soothing lilac-purple gradient and running to produce the sound captured in each of the six Sounds of Sanofi tracks. Some of the posts describe what we’re looking at; for example, a solution being prepared for the company’s NANOBODY technology platform, or a microcentrifuge busily “helping to usher in a new age in treatment.” 

The musical connoisseurs among our discerning readers may be wondering: into what genre is Sanofi pitching their new release? After all, from as early as the 1910s, leaders of the avant-garde have been tuning their ears to “found sound,” with the likes of Jean Coteau, Pablo Picasso, and John Cage deploying recordings of dynamos, morse code machines, and passing trucks in their own artistic creations. Sanofi, however, have pigeonholed their ambient noise release as something poppier: ASMR.

ASMR stands for “autonomous sensory meridian response”, which in plain English means the practice of producing sounds that trigger a shiver down their spine or a strange – and for some, quite satisfying – sensation somewhere inside the human nervous system. One @SanofiUS tweet from April 9 tagged #InternationalASMR day, while another from four days earlier notes that the Sounds of Sanofi can help us “destress and unwind” for Stress Awareness Month.

Seems like a prank? A belated April Fool’s jest? Think again. Speaking to Endpoints, Sanofi’s Stefan Roehr (Head North America Supply Chain, Distribution, and Logistics) comes off as sincere, explaining that “providing some type of de-stressing sound” was “really the goal and the intention” of the project, adding that a search is on at Sanofi to find more tickly little sounds “upstream and downstream” across clinical development.

Roehr didn’t leave it there though, expanding further: “CEO Paul Hudson says that we’re chasing the miracles of science and this innovation and the things that we’re doing really capitalizes on that idea and that movement.”

While you attempt to interpret that gnomic utterance, keep an eye on the Sanofi TikTok. More amethyst-infused audio ambience may well be floating down the (gently whirring) pipeline.

Seeking another six tracks of bliss? Look no further than our podcast mini-series DNDi: Medicine Makers Without Borders, where we speak to some of the smartest, most veteran players working with the Drugs for Neglected initiative to develop affordable medicines for the people who need them most.

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About the Author
Angus Stewart

Associate Editor of The Medicine Maker

Between studying for my English undergrad and Publishing master's degrees I was out in Shanghai, teaching, learning, and getting extremely lost. Now I'm expanding my mind down a rather different rabbit hole: the pharmaceutical industry. Outside of this job I read mountains of fiction and philosophy, and I must say, it's very hard to tell who's sharper: the literati, or the medicine makers.

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