UA-110414037-1 Improbable Developments


The Human Stories Behind the Medicines

Episode 5

Published on:

14th Jan 2020


Carol Marzetta: Living to Help Other People

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This month listen to Dr. Carol Marzetta talk about how the urge to help other people has shaped her career and her life. From her earliest days as a Discovery Biologist, she has found he passion in work that tries to help people in need. She shares with us some stories about the emotional pendulum around some promising cholesterol lowering programs that did not make the grade. 

She also opens up about the challenges managing a groundbreaking clinical program for Viagra®, including learning how devastating male erectile dysfunction could be to individuals and their families. While setbacks are expected in Discovery and management pressure is expected for a high-value clinical project, Carol always comes back to the need for helping people to keep her going. 

In fact, after leaving industry, she spent years working with non-profits like the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to bring medicines and vaccines to children in the poorest of countries. Although I have known her for years, the discussion reminded me of why I liked working with her so much. She was always there to help.

You can listen to Improbable Developments directly or subscribe on iTunes, Spotify, Google Podcasts, and more. You can follow us on twitter @ImDevPodcast.

Episode 4

Published on:

10th Dec 2019


Donald Kirsch: Getting to Know a Drug Hunter

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We’ve all been there. You are at a party and someone asks, “So, what do you do?” Dr. Kirsch always found it hard to explain his career as a discovery scientist. He decided to write a book about it.  The Drug Hunters: An Improbable Quest to DIscover New Medicines is a colorful, fact-filled narrative history of the search for new medicines from our Neolithic forebears to the professionals of today, and from quinine and aspirin to Viagra, Prozac, and Lipitor.  

We talk to Dr. Kirsch about his own experiences as a scientist, the daunting odds of finding an actual medicine, and the additional human hurdles that can make these discoveries even harder. He also talks to us about the things he learned as he wrote The Drug Hunters with his co-author Ogi Ogas, Ph.D.  


Sound Design: Jacob Tompkins (  

Music: “Origins” Per Kilstofte 

“AS – Tribal O1” Aaron Spencer 

Graphic Design: Heather McCullen (  

Episode 3

Published on:

18th Nov 2019


David Pearce: Hope Can Be Curative.

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Today we hear from David Pearce, PhD, President of Innovation and Research, Sanford Health and Vice Chair, Consortium Assembly, International Rare Disease Research Consortium (IRDiRC)

Dr. Pearce’s rare disease background emanates from publishing over 100 research papers on Batten Disease.  David talks to us about how he got involved in Batten Disease research and where that work has taken him since.  

In his role as President of Innovation and Research at Sanford he is responsible for overseeing the development of research programs across Sanford’s nine-state footprint, including more than 450 researchers, eight research centers and more than 300 ongoing clinical trials. This includes a national registry for rare diseases, Coordination of Rare Diseases at Sanford (CoRDS).

The International Rare Disease Research Consortium comprises more than 50 international entities.  

Episode 2

Published on:

9th Oct 2019


Kyle Bryant: Remember Why We Are Doing All This

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We welcome Kyle Bryant of the Friedreich’s Ataxia Research Alliance (FARA) to discuss his journey as a patient with Friedreich’s Ataxia (FA), as an active patient leader, and in his job as a liaison between the FA community and researchers.

After being diagnosed with FA when only 17 years old, Kyle has dedicated his life to helping other people with FA and exemplifying the adage “Life is how we react to it!” He has reacted by becoming a long-distance bike rider, podcast host, author, and full-time patient advocate. 

Kyle opens up about his drive to help others deal with the challenges of life with FA and other disorders. It started when he wrote a daily blog during his first big bike ride from San Diego to Memphis. The comments and responses to this blog made him realize “Oh my gosh, we can make a real impact” by giving people hope and community. It was life-changing for him.

Kyle has a very healthy perspective on participation in clinical trials. He talks about his understanding that he may be just one small “mouse” in a study, but he can be the most powerful mouse that ever lived, an essential ingredient to make a drug a reality.  

Kyle Bryant is the author of Shifting Into High Gear: One Man’s Diagnosis and the Epic Bike Ride that Taught Him What Matters. He is also the co-host of The Two Disabled Dudes Podcast (@2DDPodcast) with his friend Sean Baumstark. He and Sean are featured in the award-winning documentary The Ataxian.  

Episode 1

Published on:

9th Sep 2019


David Fajgenbaum, MD, MBA, MSC, FCPP

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We are honored to have Dr. David Fajgenbaum as our first guest on Improbable Developments. His story is intense. Before he even earned is medical degree, he was faced by a rare life-threatening illness for which there was no treatment, let alone cure.

Tune in to hear how he took a novel approach to consolidating the scarce knowledge about his condition, Idiopathic Multi-Centric Castleman's Disease that helped him find a treatment that quite literally allowed him to be on our podcast.

His new goal is to replicate that approach for patients with other rare disorders.

We also get to hear about his book,  Chasing My Cure: A Doctor's Race to Turn Hope Into Action which comes out on September 10, 2019.

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About the Podcast

Improbable Developments
The human stories behind the medicines
Every medicine in your pharmacy has a human story behind it. Real people doing real work and living real lives.

We all have romantic ideas about scientists working late into the evening or doctors dropping everything to answer a phone call about a patient. You can almost envision the moment when one of those researchers finally solves an intellectual puzzle and leaps into action. Their eyes go from an empty stare to an alert laser-like focus. They sit a bit taller and start to read frantically. I am sure you’ve seen those movies too.

But is it real? Is that how it really happens?

That’s what we intend to explore in “Improbable Developments.”

Each month we will talk to someone who was or is in the trenches of biopharma R&D and let them tell their story. We’ll be talking about medicines you may know and some that never saw the light of day. We’ll talk to people involved at the bench in the earliest stages through to those who run the clinical trials and present the data to regulators around the world. We'll even be talking to patients who have joined the effort.

The science of drug discovery and development creates a rich landscape for all sorts of stories to unfold. The technical challenges, the urgency to help patients, career aspirations, the fight for resources, and many other factors all work together to produce a complex and enthralling human drama. In our monthly discussions, we will look at this from many different angles.

Through our discussions, we hope to give you a real appreciation for the types of people behind the medicines you take and the medical devices you may use. You’ll get to know each of them a little bit and start to understand what they have in common and how different and unique they really are.

About your hosts

Heather McCullen

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Kevin Freiert

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Jamie Roger

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