Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Stem Cell Agency Scores in Coverage of Geron Clinical Trial

One of the goals of the new chairman of the $3 billion California stem cell agency is to raise its visibility in a significant way with positive portrayals of results of its work.

 Today, CIRM chalked up a plus in that column.

 Jonathan Thomas, the Los Angeles bond financier who is CIRM's new chairman, was quoted this morning in a several accounts dealing with Geron's first-ever clinical trial of its hESC therapy for spinal cord injuries.

The stories – with at least a few more likely to come today and tomorrow – reported the first Californian to be treated in the high-profile project. They were based on news releases from Stanford(see here) and CIRM(see here). The stories were the type of coverage that has minimal negative content and reflect positively on the stem cell agency.

Two articles surfaced in Northern California in the San Francisco Business Times and Palo Alto Online. Ron Leuty's story in the Business Times included a photo of Thomas (which helps attract readers) and a partial quote in the caption which highlighted CIRM. Both stories noted the agency's $25 million loan to Geron, a Menlo Park, Ca., firm to help out in the trial.

Here is what Thomas said in the press releases and what the Palo Alto story by Sue Dremann picked up verbatim:
"'When the people of California voted in favor of Proposition 71, they did so with the hope of seeing stem-cell-based therapies for chronic disease and injuries. This first California patient to participate in Geron's landmark spinal cord injury trial is a major step toward fulfilling that hope,' said Jonathan Thomas, chair of the California Institute of Regenerative Medicine governing board.
"'We are proud to be providing funding for this first safety trial, which is a critical step toward making safe and effective stem-cell-based therapies available to patients.'"
In San Diego County, the first paragraph of a story in the North County Times by Bradley Fikes said,
"The first Californian to receive stem cell therapy funded by the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM), began clinical trials Sept. 17, the institute said Monday. The treatment is for patients with spinal cord injuries."
Obviously organizations prefer positive news coverage if they receive any at all. But for CIRM, the importance of its image rises to a higher level and will affect its survival. The agency will run out of cash around 2017 and will need to go back to voters for another multi-billion dollar bond measure before that date. Lots and lots of good news from CIRM is the only way that the California public is likely to buy into such a proposal.

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