Two Scientists Walk Into a Bar

From research on cancer vaccines to why we feel pain, scientists are tackling some of the biggest challenges in human biology. Want to find out what they’re working on? Pull up a stool for "Two Scientists Walk Into a Bar." Subscribe below to catch each episode as it goes live.


Latest Episode

Cells are the basic unit of life, with a remarkable ability to sense their environment, process information and adapt accordingly. With 37.2 trillion cells in the human body, there remains plenty for scientists to discover about how this symphony of cells is organized and works together. In this special episode, producer Wellington Bowler chats with Aviv Regev, Executive Vice President, Genentech Research and Early Development, to discuss her vision for the roles that single cell genomics and computational biology can play in not only forwarding our basic understanding of biology, but also in our ability to generate new insights about disease and ultimately develop new medicines for patients.

Previous Episodes This Season

The biological mysteries of age-related diseases have intrigued scientists for decades. In recent years, our expansive knowledge of genetics, thanks to the humble fruit fly, has opened our eyes to the mechanisms underlying these conditions. Now scientists are hoping to apply this knowledge to use the body’s own biological systems to delay the onset of disease or engage repair mechanisms once a disease has arisen. Jane speaks to Heinrich Jasper, Staff Scientist, Immunology Discovery, to learn more about the field of regenerative medicine and extending health.

In Season 1, we talked about using biomarkers and big data to match patients with the best treatment for their disease. In this episode, Jane sits down with David Shames, Senior Director of Cancer Immunotherapy Biomarkers and Staff Scientist in Oncology Biomarker Development, and Mark Lee, Senior Vice President and Global Head of Personalized Healthcare in Product Development, to discuss how a variety of big data approaches can be used to advance knowledge in real-time and aid in delivering more personalized care to patients. Tune in to find out why every scientist in the future just might need to be a data scientist too.

Our eyes are our windows to the world, but what happens when those windows start to fade or disappear? To understand how the eye works, scientists are combining developments in imaging and genetics to see into the eye and better understand why a disease occurs or whether a treatment is working. Hear from our host Jane Grogan and Menno van Lookeren Campagne*, Principal Scientist, Immunology, and get a glimpse into how researchers are combining genetics, imaging and natural history data to better predict eye diseases like age-related macular degeneration and potentially treat them earlier.

*While Menno van Lookeren Campagne was an employee at the time this episode was recorded, he has since left Genentech.

It’s easy to think of cancer as an invader to the body. But in reality, it’s simply the result of a few proofreading errors in DNA replication that occur over time when cells divide. In Episode 3, Jane Grogan chats with Fred de Sauvage, Vice President and Staff Scientist, Molecular Oncology, about how just a handful of mutations can make normal cells go rogue, and how the field is finding new ways to stop the growth of cancer in its tracks.

Last episode, Jane and colleagues unraveled the intricacies of the human microbiome. This week, Jane chats with Mary Keir, Senior Scientist, Biomarker Discovery OMNI, to learn what happens during inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), what causes it, and how targeting dysfunction in our immune system, the gut epithelial barrier and our microbiome could reduce inflammation in the gut.

Our bodies are full of bacteria - pounds of them actually. We’re kicking off Season 3 with a closer look at the human microbiome and what happens when the synergistic relationship between our cells and our bacteria goes awry. Jane Grogan talks about the latest discoveries in microbiome research with Allyson Byrd, Associate Scientist, Cancer Immunology, Bioinformatics.

Two Scientists Walk Into a Bar is back for a third season with host Jane Grogan chatting with scientists who are leading the charge to understand complex diseases. This season will tackle a range of new topics, including a deep dive into the human microbiome, the latest in multiple sclerosis, asthma and aging, and how Big Data is redefining personalized healthcare. Subscribe today so you don’t miss an episode!

Season 2

So far this season we’ve talked about the immune system a lot – how immune cells communicate, traffic along connective tissue, and invasive tumors. But what actually is the immune system? What’s it made of? How does it work? To close out our second season, Jane speaks with Andy Chan, Senior Vice President of Research Biology, to unravel the mysteries behind the immune system.

Pharmacology is the study of how a medicine works in the body, which is a critical step in understanding what medicines people should be given, and at what dose and schedule. As we learn more about the complex genomics that make each person unique, the role of pharmacologists is becoming increasingly important for personalizing safe and effective treatments. Jane speaks to Sara Kenkare-Mitra, Senior Vice President, Development Sciences, to get a glimpse into the future of this field.

Neurons, the cells that make up our brain, are some of the most unique cells in our bodies. The complex nature of how they communicate leads to everything we say, think, or do. That complexity makes it hard to correct neural communication when something goes wrong, as in neurodegenerative diseases. What can we do to fix that? Jane talks to Casper Hoogenraad, Senior Director and Staff Scientist in Neuroscience, to find out more.

The lifecycle of a cell mirrors our own lives – cells live and die as we do. It would be easy to think of cell death, or apoptosis, as a negative action, but the death of a cell is actually critical to many of the important biological functions that keep our bodies running. Learn more about the mysteries behind cell death from Vishva Dixit, M.D., Vice President, Physiological Chemistry.

Despite the best efforts of the human immune system, viruses and bacteria are constantly evolving to find new ways to breach our bodies’ natural defenses. Over the years, scientists have stepped in to develop novel ways to help the immune system in fighting infectious diseases. It’s a complicated field, which is why in this episode Jane is bringing in two scientists – Man Wah Tan, Senior Director and Principal Scientist, and Jorge Tavel, Group Medical Director, from the infectious disease team – to talk about where the field is headed.

Chemistry is all around us – from the air we breathe, to the food we eat, to the medicine we take when we’re sick. And for the researchers working to figure out how to make those medicines, chemistry can be an art as well as a science. Learn more as Jane talks to Wendy Young, Vice President, Discovery Chemistry.

The world of proteins is a minuscule and elegant ballet. Recent advances in imaging techniques have given us unprecedented views into this microscopic world, which could help us design better targeted therapies for a wide range of diseases. Learn more from Sarah Hymowitz, Vice President, Protein Sciences at Genentech, about why she has fallen in love with all things protein.

If your body was a city, then connective tissue would be the infrastructure tying everything together. It’s a hidden universe that helps many types of cells talk to each other and helps us fight diseases like rheumatoid arthritis or cancer. That’s why Shannon Turley has dedicated her research to uncovering the complexities of connective tissue, from her days as a graduate student shuttling ice boxes of live cells on the train to Principal Scientist of Cancer Immunology at Genentech. Hear more from Shannon on our debut episode of Season 2!

Jane Grogan and her producer Wellington Bowler are back for a second season of Two Scientists Walk Into a Bar. After a summer hiatus, Jane is eager to take on a new season of topics, including the 101 on proteins, infectious disease, how tumor microenvironments work and cell death. Subscribe today so you don’t miss an episode!

Season One

Designing a clinical trial is fascinatingly complex. There are dozens of variables that could influence the ability of any given trial to be successful. Navigating this complexity is truly a science unto itself. In our latest episode, Merdad Parsey*, Senior Vice President of Early Clinical Development, explains how the science of clinical trial design has evolved, and where it’s headed.

*While Merdad Parsey was an employee at the time this episode was recorded, he has since left Genentech.

Each person’s cancer is unique, so trying to match the right treatment to the right person is one of cancer biology’s biggest remaining challenges. In our latest episode, Priti Hegde, Director of Oncology Biomarker Development at Genentech, talks about how big data and advanced technology are guiding the future of personalized cancer immunotherapies.

Some types of breast cancer can become “addicted” to estrogen signaling, so treatments that target the estrogen receptor were once thought to be a magic bullet against this disease. But breast cancer is sneaky, and some mutations can allow it to sidestep these types of targeted therapies. In our latest episode, Lori Friedman*, Senior Director of Translational Oncology at Genentech, talks about the ways scientists are trying to stay one step ahead of breast cancer.

*While Lori Friedman was an employee at the time this episode was recorded, she has since left Genentech.

Bacteria are remarkably fast shape-shifters. As soon as we develop new antibiotics against them, they mutate, leading to drug-resistant strains the world has never seen before. This could mean that one day we end up weaponless against an army of drug-resistant superbugs. But a new generation of “super antibiotics” could hold the key to overcoming this problem. Learn how as we sit down with Rick Brown, Vice President of Immunology and Infectious Diseases at Genentech, in our latest podcast.

In 1848 an explosion launched an iron rod through Phineas Gage’s brain. He miraculously survived, but wasn’t the same person, giving scientists the first clues into how neurodegeneration can affect what it means to be human. In our latest episode, we sit down with Geoff Kerchner, Neurologist and Medical Director of Early Clinical Development at Genentech, to learn about the latest ways scientists are trying to halt the neurodegeneration seen in diseases like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and ALS. As both a practicing neurologist and research scientist, Geoff gives us an inside peek at how his findings from the clinic can help unravel some of the most fundamental mysteries about the brain.

Communication is the key to good relationships. That’s true not only for people, but for our cells as well. If cellular communication goes wrong, your brain may stop processing information, or your organs might form tumors. So how do cells talk to each other? This week Jane Grogan sits down with Shiva Malek, Director and Principal Scientist of Discovery Oncology at Genentech, whose work focuses on “eavesdropping” on the chatter between cells to understand what they’re saying and what goes wrong in a diseased state like cancer. We’re sure the cells don’t mind.

Pain is actually good for us. Until it’s not. Discovering how to fight chronic pain, while leaving acute pain intact, is no easy venture. Join Morgan Sheng*, Vice President of Neuroscience and Molecular Biology at Genentech, as he takes us on a tour of the different pain systems in our body, and how a family of Pakistani street performers helped scientists identify a novel target for treatment.

*While Morgan Sheng was an employee at the time this episode was recorded, he has since left Genentech.

A revolution in cancer care is happening right now. In our debut episode, Jane Grogan sits down with Ira Mellman, Vice President of Cancer Immunology at Genentech, one of the world’s foremost experts in the field of cancer immunotherapy, about the “a-ha” moments that could mean the next breakthrough, from checkpoint inhibitors to cancer vaccines. Plus Ira waxes poetic about transitioning from a life of music to a life of science.

The only thing Jane Grogan loves more than doing science is talking about it. In addition to being an accomplished scientist leading research on inflammation, autoimmunity and tumor immunobiology, Jane has a background in radio. So when we decided to record our first podcast series—Two Scientists Walk Into A Bar—she was the natural choice to host. Subscribe today to learn what our top scientists are working on.

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The name Two Scientists Walk Into A Bar is under license and used with permission from the Fleet Science Center.