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Meet the Cancer Scientist Leading Genentech (RHHBY)'s First Podcast

10/25/2016 6:23:33 AM

Meet the Cancer Scientist Leading Genentech's First Podcast October 25, 2016
By Mark Terry, Breaking News Staff

South San Francisco-based Genentech (RHHBY) launched a science-related podcast called “Two Scientists Walk into a Bar.” The name of the podcast is a nod to the legend of the company’s origins, when the late venture capitalist Bob Swanson and Herb Boyer, a researcher at the University of California, San Francisco, met at a bar in San Francisco’s Inner Sunset to discuss a startup that would later become the world’s largest biotech company.

The podcast is hosted by Jane Grogan, a principal scientist and group leader in the company’s Cancer Immunology & Epigenetics. During this podcast, Grogan talks with her fellow scientists. For example, Grogan’s first conversation is with Ira Mellman, Genentech’s vice president of cancer immunology.

Grogan’s a good choice. During an earlier period in her life, Grogan was a radio show host in her native Australia. She received a Bachelor of Science in Biochemistry and Pharmacology at the University of Melbourne, Australia, and a PhD in Immunology at Leiden University, the Netherlands. She spent two years as a scientist at the German Rheumatology Institute in Berlin, Germany, then spent four years undergoing a post-doctoral fellowship at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute at the University of California, San Francisco.

After her fellowship, Grogan joined Genentech in 2004 as an Immunology Discovery Research Scientist.

“I love science, and I think perhaps the only thing better than doing science is talking about it,” Grogan says in the introduction to her first podcast.
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And, so far anyway, the podcast focuses on science and research, not the company’s drugs. This is probably to avoid any negative attention from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

“We hope it’s another way to bring understanding of science and the excitement of scientific inquiry into the mainstream,” said Genentech spokeswoman Robin Snyder, to the San Francisco Business Times.

In her energetic introduction to the podcast, Grogan says, “Starting this October I’m going to have the chance to step away from my lab every couple of weeks to talk with colleagues about some of the cool stuff people are working on. Everything ranging from cancer and infectious disease research to trying to figure out why we feel pain and how cells talk to each other. I’m so excited! Part interview, part conversation, each show will be free-ranging, unscripted and provocative. A look behind the scenes of modern drug discovery research and a journey into the minds of top research scientists. All this, and it takes place in a bar! How great is that?”

Even the podcast’s theme song is an in-house production, performed by The Fingerpuppets, a band headed by Mike Varney, executive vice president, Genentech Research and Early Development.

The first podcast came out October 20 and is described as a talk about “Cancer and Your Immune System” with Ira Mellman. It runs about 16 minutes and is free on iTunes.

It begins with a seemingly random sampling of people asked, “Will we see a cure for cancer in our lifetime?” It then launches into a discussion of Mellman’s background as a musician, his transition into science, and a broad discussion of cancer and immunology research.

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