Thursday, January 10, 2008

Stem Cell PR, John Scully and Stanford

What a difference Arnold makes.

Stanford announced on Wednesday that investment banker John Scully was giving it $20 million for stem cell research, among other things. News coverage was modest, especially compared to the outpouring that resulted from an identical donation from Eli Broad to UCLA last year.

At that time, a Google search on the term "UCLA stem cell million broad" generated 244,000 hits by the afternoon following the announcement. In comparison a search at noon today on "Stanford stem cell million Scully" generated 11,500 hits.

The biggest single difference in terms of the coverage was the appearance of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger at an event at UCLA announcing the gift from Broad. It generated a wide range of stories including TV spots from the stem cell labs on the Westwood campus.

As we pointed out at the time, huge donations offer an opportunity to not only tout the institution and recognize the donor, but also to promote the field of human embryonic stem cell research.

When 55 percent of the public nationally says it has little or no knowledge of stem cell research, the field still needs major help. Donations provide a chance to tell a positive story – one that does not involve warnings of expensive therapies, dubious results or even research fraud much less conflicts of interest.

We should also note that the donation will probably give a boost to Stanford's bid for a multimillion dollar CIRM lab construction grant. One of the important criteria for the grants is a big fund match from the applicants.

Here is a link toe the Stanford news release on Scully (see photo) and a story in the San Jose Mercury News. The San Francisco Chronicle does not appear to have carried a story.

(An earlier version of this item incorrectly identified Scully as the former CEO of Apple.)

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