2017 was a year of transitions, marking the departure of several outstanding health podcasts, such as “Signal” and “Human Proof of Concept,” and the emergence of several others. I’ve broken the list into those where almost every episode seems relevant, and those worth listening to selectively. I’ve also called out a handful of individual “must-listen” episodes from other (often more general) podcast series.
(Almost) Always Relevant
A Healthy Dose: This podcast, offered by Oxeon Partners and Bessemer Venture Partners, features relatively lengthy interviews of interesting guests conducted by Oxeon founder and CEO Trevor Price, and Steve Kraus, healthcare partner at Bessemer. While it does have an element of two investor bros chatting at a frat reunion, the interviews themselves are consistently engaging; the episodes featuring GV’s Krishna Yeshwant, Flatiron’s Nat Turner, Iora’s Rushika Fernandopulle were each particularly good, the episode featuring crusty healthcare legend Charlie Martin was great, and a special episode featuring four patients poignantly discussing their struggles with addiction was at a whole different level. Price and Kraus have a good thing going here, and I can’t wait to see what they’ve got planned for 2018.
The Long Run: While I was sorry to see the cancellation of the “Signal”, a podcast co-hosted by Timmerman Report’s Luke Timmerman and CNBC’s terrific biotech reporter Meg Tirrell, and also sorry to see Janelle Anderson’s wonderful “Human Proof of Concept” go on indefinite hiatus (apparently and inexplicably associated with a recent job change), Luke Timmerman’s “The Long Run” represents in some ways the elegant continuation of both traditions. Timmerman interviews biotech leaders in considerable depth, leveraging his exceptional knowledge of the industry. I’ve enjoyed every single one of his interviews, which have included John Maraganore of Alnylam, George Yancopoulos of Regeneron, Katrine Bosley of Editas, and Steve Graham of Fenwick & West, among others. This podcast has become as indispensable on the audio side as Front Points, the Timmerman Report’s weekly summary of industry activity, is on the writing side.
Tech Tonics: Yes, obvious conflict/disclosure here, this is the biweekly podcast that Lisa “Venture Valkyrie” Suennen, Senior Managing Director of GE Ventures, and I have been hosting (independently, pro bono, and for fun) since 2015, and my sense as well as my hope is that we’ve really started to hit our stride. I especially enjoyed our 2017 interviews with leaders at the interface of medicine and data science, including Amy Abernethy (Flatiron), Atul Butte (UCSF), Joel Dudley (Mount Sinai School of Medicine), Zak Kohane(Harvard; note: I’ve an adjunct role in his department), Glen de Vries (Medidata), Eric Perakslis (Takeda [long before I joined]), Jess Mega (Verily), Deb Kilpatrick(Evidation Health), Chris Benko (Koneksa Health), Jeff Reid (Regeneron Genetics Center), Daphne Koller (Calico), and Dawn Meyerriecks (the CIA[!]), among many others.
Politico’s Pulse Check: The ultimate podcast for healthcare policy wonks, Dan Diamond’s interviews are consistently thought-provoking, insightful, and not afraid to delve deep into the details. I’ve appreciated his robust coverage of healthcare legislation, and I particularly enjoyed this interview with AthenaHealth’s Jonathan Bush. (Note that this was a particular impressive year for Diamond, who, together with Politico colleague Rachana Pradhan, contributed the investigative reporting around Tom Price’s use of private jets while HHS Secretary, leading directly to his resignation.)
The a16z Podcast: Andressen-Horowitz is among the leading tech VCs in the world, and their intriguing, well-produced podcasts tailored to startup entrepreneurs are a core part of their brand outreach. My favorite episodes this year were those that involved policy (such as this interview with California Senator Kamala Harris). Some may also enjoy their health-focused episodes, which have become more frequent as the firm has increased its investment in this space. While I’ve not found most of these episodes especially resonant, you should give them a try; they certainly offer visibility into how a top tech VC hopes to bring its talent into healthcare. This recent episode, describing their ambitions for their latest biology fund, offers a representative taste of their perspective.
Running Through Walls: While Venrock (and the firm’s podcast) does not focus exclusively on health, they have an exceptional track record in this space, especially in the person of Bryan Roberts, who according to Fortune “has seen nine of his portfolio companies research $1 billion or more of value.” In 2011, Roberts was joined by physician, McKinsey alum, and ACA architect Bob Kocher, presumably to expand the firm’s visibility into health service startups. (Our 2015 Tech Tonics interview with Kocher is here.) I’ve especially enjoyed Kocher’s interviews with Aledade’s Farzad Mostashari (which ran in late 2016 but I’ve included it here) and Covered California’s Peter Lee, and Roberts’s two-part interview with David Ebersman (Part 1; Part 2), who was CFO of Genentech at time it was acquired by Roche, went on to become CFO of Facebook, and in January 2015 left to co-found and helm behavioral health company Lyra Health.
Mendelspod: This in-the-(genetically modified)-weeds genetics podcast, hosted by the gently curious Theral Timpson, features interviews with anyone who is anyone in genetics, and affords listeners the opportunity to learn what’s on the mind of the top experts in the field. I’ve enjoyed both the in depth discussions – such as thisinterview with University of Washington’s Jay Shendure – as well as the monthly news reviews with Laura Hercher of Sarah Lawrence and Nathan Pearson, of Root Deep Insight.
Also, would check out:
This episode of the “After On” podcast featuring Robert Green of the Brigham and Women’s Hospital” – the best, most thorough, most accessible introducing to genetic testing and its implications I’ve heard to date.
Several episodes of “99% Invisible” (a consistently captivating podcast), including this episode about the hidden biases of algorithms, this episode about the evolution of the birth control pill’s packaging, and thisepisode about the origin of the sports bra.
This episode of StartUp (another podcast series I’ve consistently enjoyed, from Gimlet Media) discussing food entrepreneurs trying to turn dried bugs into acceptable food for people. Sounds completely wacky – until you realize extent to which food preference seems to be far more flexible than we often appreciate; examples of food that apparently used to be similarly reviled in the United States include lobster (which used to be called “cockroach of the sea”) and sushi.