Genentech’s podcasting debut taps science podcast geek chic

Genentech scientists are bellying up to the bar. For a new podcast series, that is. 

"Two Scientists Walk into a Bar" will feature scientists from gRED, Genentech's early scientific research and development group, talking about topics from cancer to superbugs.

The interviewer is Jane Grogan, principal scientist of cancer immunology at Genentech, who is also a former Australian science radio show host. Every two weeks, she will host a new guest and topic. The first podcast, launched last week, featured Ira Mellman, cell biologist, VP at Genentech and cancer immunotherapy expert, talking about the current revolution in cancer research.

The podcast is part of Genentech's content strategy to "bring understanding of science and scientific inquiry into the mainstream and meet our audiences where they're consuming content," Robin Snyder, director of science communications at Genentech, said in an email interview with FiercePharma.

While podcasts are not typical marketing content vehicles for pharma, general science podcasts now number in the hundreds. Some of the more well-known ones include astrophysicist Neal deGrasse Tyson's "StarTalk" and RadioLab, which is also a public radio show. Podcasts overall are growing in both audiences and programming. In 2016, 21% of Americans 12 or older listened to a podcast in the past month, according to Edison Research. 

Pharma's scientists, though, have become a theme pharma company marketing as the industry looks to bolster its collective reputation. Pfizer's ($PFE) "Before it Became a Medicine," Merck's ($MRK) "Humans for Health" and Astellas' "Changing Tomorrow" all feature pharma scientists and the life-saving work they do.

For Genentech, the biopharma arm of Roche Group ($RHHBY), the "Two Scientists" podcast represents a way to use storytelling as a way to bring science to life, Snyder said. It's also a reflection of gRED's leader and its culture.

"Our podcast is another vehicle for showing the breadth and depth of Genentech science, providing a window into our innovative culture. It’s a great reflection of Mike Varney's philosophy that having fun and doing serious work are not mutually exclusive," she said.

Genentech's newest marketing content comes as the company shakes up the immuno-oncology scene with PD-L1 drug Tecentriq. After winning FDA approval in May as a treatment for advanced bladder cancer, it last week broke into second-line non-small cell lung cancer to challenge rivals Keytruda from Merck and Opdivo from Bristol-Myers Squibb ($BMY).

- listen to the first podcast

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