40 Under 40 2016: Arun Divakaruni

SVP and U.S. health innovation leader, element scientific communications team, Weber Shandwick, 35

Arun Divakaruni is a rarity — an accomplished scientist and a creative storyteller. After getting a Ph.D. in molecular biology and biochemistry from UCLA, Divakaruni joined the Element Scientific Communications team at Weber Shandwick eight years ago and found his niche in marrying those scientific analytical skills to the art of communications.

Within a year, he became a core member of Weber Shandwick’s science team. Divakaruni also became one of the most trusted counselors on the firm’s fastest-growing healthcare account and also served as the interim general manager for Weber Shandwick’s Los Angeles office.

Divakaruni has played a key role in Weber Shandwick’s work with Genentech. In 2013, he became the chief architect for the firm’s digital storytelling initiatives for Genentech and helped launch the company’s first full-scale news hub for the American Society of Clinical Oncology — an award-winning brand publishing program that continues today.

To support this work, Divakaruni assembled a strategic content team for Genentech that includes scientists, copywriters, developers, and designers.

"Arun has been an incredible partner to me and the communications team at Genentech," says Ed Lang, senior director of external communications at Genentech. "He understands what Genentech stands for as a company and continually inspires us to explore new ways to tell the stories that matter most. Together, we’ve reimagined how we communicate and how we engage with the people that matter most — patients, caregivers, and the scientists who will discover the next life-changing medicines."

The work for Genentech, which includes rich-media editorials, research-driven data visualizations, animations, and games, has won numerous awards, including several Clios.Last year, Divakaruni was named U.S. health innovation leader, drawing on his skills as a trend-spotter, creative strategist, and network talent integrator.

In early 2016, Divakaruni was tapped to lead the integration of ReviveHealth, a healthcare company acquired by Weber Shandwick that could lead to new growth opportunities for the firm in the era of the Affordable Care Act.

- Divakaruni has a passion for mentorship and outreach to young scientists; he regularly speaks about PR and science communications at university job fairs and seminars.

- He also plays the guitar.

- Until relocating to Chicago, he taught night classes in biochemistry at UCLA.

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