Amgen launches new science podcast to showcase its work in AI-driven drug R&D

Amgen is tapping into the rising popularity of audio streaming with its latest podcast about generative biology, an emerging field that uses artificial intelligence and machine learning to discover and develop new biologic drugs.

The four-part series, "The Generative Biology Revolution," debuted June 22 and is hosted by Ray Deshaies, Ph.D., Amgen’s senior vice president of global research.

In each episode, Deshaies chats with scientists within Amgen as well as experts from outside research institutions about how AI and machine learning can make drug discovery “more predictable, shorten timelines and increase success rates of bringing life-saving medicines to patients who need them most.”

“Our primary goal with The Generative Biology Revolution is to communicate the excitement of the potential this field has for advancing drug discovery and development at Amgen and throughout the industry,” Michael Strapazon, Amgen director of corporate affairs, told Fierce Pharma Marketing in an email.

The podcast also gives the company a chance to showcase its scientists and their research, which, as we’ve seen during the pandemic, can go a long way toward boosting the industry’s standing with the public.

Podcasts are a way for the public to “hear the voices of our scientists and learn about how we and others in the industry approach the discovery and development of novel medicines for the most challenging diseases,” said Strapazon.

“We’re very proud of our R&D scientists and our leadership, particularly in our unique areas of strength like world-class human genetics, disease biology and the molecular engineering expertise needed to design the right medicine for the right target,” he said.

Amgen partnered with The Scientist’s “LabTalk,” well known in the scientific community, to produce the podcast, which is available to stream on all major platforms. While it primarily targets scientists, Deshaies aims to explain the complex science in a way that makes it accessible to a broader audience.

In the first episode, he chats with Alan Russell, Ph.D., Amgen’s vice president of biologics, about how the company is working on harnessing AI to predict new sequences of proteins “with functions that we want them to have” so they can be better suited to treat a disease.

Using a surfing analogy, Russell said scientists can either “watch the waves breaking” or “figure out what are the surfboards that will allow us to surf that wave and will allow us to harness the power and the energy behind this new science.”

“What the [Amgen] team did is they simply said, ‘OK, for each one of these waves, what are the surfboards? How do we build them? What do we need to put in place? How can we do our experiments in different ways? How can we create the systems that will generate the data that will power the algorithm? How do we deploy the automation?'” he explained in the episode.

Amgen is one of a long list of pharma companies that have launched their own podcasts since Genentech rolled out the industry’s first with its “Two Scientists Walk into a Bar'' back in 2016. Other pharma podcasts include Eli Lilly’s “The Elixir Factor” and Pfizer's “The Antigen” while drugmakers like ViiV Healthcare, Novartis and Merck have launched podcasts specifically for patients with HIV, psoriasis and cancer.  

Amgen’s latest podcast, which has a new episode out today (July 7) and another on July 14, follows the success of its earlier “DNA Unlocked” and “Undruggable” podcasts, which the drugmaker rolled out during the second half of 2021.

And it won’t be the last. Amgen has two more podcasts in the pipeline for later in 2022, focusing on clinical trial innovation and the power of harnessing human data.