Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Bluebird and Banking: Media Pluses for California Stem Cell Agency

The California stem cell agency scored a couple of favorable publicity points last week as the result of a successful stock offering by an award recipient and another piece about creation of a stem cell bank in Northern California.

The IPO by bluebird bio (the company's preferred spelling) of Massachusetts was a big winner for the company, raising millions of dollars more than anticipated.

The Boston Globe wrote,
“Shares of the Cambridge life sciences company bluebird bio Inc. soared almost 60 percent on their first day of trading (last) Wednesday, an impressive debut for a business that endured years of stagnation and another encouraging sign for the biotechnology industry.
“The local gene therapy company raised $101 million in an initial public offering priced at $17 per share, higher than the $14 to $16 estimated by investment bankers. Bluebird shares closed at $26.91 per share on Wednesday.”
The stock continues to trade around $25 a share at the time of this writing, which is good news generally for the biotech industry.

The company received a $9.4 million award last fall from the $3 billion stem cell agency. The company has yet to receive any actual cash from the agency as both parties work out final details of an agreement, a spokesman for the agency said last week.

The stem cell agency touted the successful IPO in a blog item by  that said,
“Bluebird Bio, one of the oldest companies in the struggling gene therapy field, is having an outstanding first day in the stock market today, and largely by marrying its gene therapy technology with stem cell science. The company’s financial milestone brings hope and excitement to both fields.”
However, the news stories about the IPO failed to mention the stem cell agency's involvement, which would have been nice for the agency but was to be expected given the way news is covered.

The story about the stem cell bank appeared on Xconomy, an Internet news service dealing with technology. Written by Bernadette Tansey, a former San Francisco Chronicle reporter, the piece dealt with the both business and science of stem cell banking. She wrote,
“One of the main goals of California’s $3 billion stem cell research agency is to draw companies into the state so they can vie for a share of the funding.
"With a recently funded $32 million initiative, the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine(CIRM) has attracted two of the biggest US players in stem cell banking to Novato, CA, to form one of the largest biobanks of induced pluripotent stem cells (iPS cells) in the world.”
The stem cell bank effort has become a minor staple in recent news coverage of CIRM, surfacing in a number of articles since the awards were approved. One of the reasons for that is that the project has a relatively straight-forward story line compared to many research efforts and the concept of "banking" is familiar to editors, writers and readers. 

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