Tag Archives: Nature

First Study Demonstrating Safety of Embryonic Stem Cell (ESC)-Derived Cells in Humans Reported by Advanced Cell Technology, Results Published in The Lancet

For the first time, a study by Advanced Cell Technology (“ACT”; OTCBB: ACTC)

Dr. Steven Schwartz, a retina specialist at the University of California, Los Angeles, conducted the trial with two patients. (Monica Almeida/The New York Times)

demonstrated the safety of the transplantation of human embryonic stem cells (hESC) derived from retinal pigment epithelium (RPE) into patients. Additionally, the injected cells survived and continued to persist during the study period.  Results were reported for two patients, the first in each of the Phase 1/2 clinical trials, and were published in The Lancet, representing an important milestone for the field of embryonic stem cell research.

A patient said her vision improved in a meaningful way after the treatment, which used embryonic stem cells. (Monica Almeida/The New York Times)

In the study, patients with Stargardt’s macular dystrophy (SMD) and dry age-related macular degeneration (dry AMD) were treated with ACT’s embryonic stem cell (ESC)-derived cells. Both patients were legally blind, and both had measurable improvements in their vision that persisted for more than four months. No treatments currently exist for either indication.

Through extensive media outreach coordinated by Russo Partners, coverage of this announcement was secured across all levels of print and broadcast media, including top tier, national, international, newswire, trade and regional outlets.

Below are links to samples of media coverage of the announcement:




New York Times

USA Today

BBC News



The Telegraph



Associated Press


Los Angeles Times

The Scientist


MedPage Today


Crisis Communication

Spearheading communications for the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) during the first few weeks of the swine flu pandemic was Richard Besser, the acting director of the CDC and now an ABC News health reporter.  Besser is considered by experts to have handled the swine flu crisis communication skillfully and effectively, and in a recent article in the Jan. 14 issue of Nature, Brendan Maher’s, “Swine flu: Crisis communicator,” details Besser’s communication strategy and how it played out in the early days of our most recent global pandemic.

In the early days of the swine flu little was known about the virus, but the data that was available to the CDC indicated that a serious pandemic outbreak was a fearful possibility.  Without much solid information to offer the public, Besser knew that this emerging crisis would require rapid and “candid communication to engender trust, not panic.”  To this end he took advantage of three principles from a CDC pamphlet on crisis and emergency risk communication, ‘Be First, Be Right, and Be Credible”:

Be first. Though being first is a challenge when facing a global audience with limited information, Besser believed that early communication was necessary to confront the imminent threat of a widespread outbreak.  To gain the public’s trust, as the chief communicator for the CDC, he adhered to the following principles: “tell everything we knew, everything we didn’t know and what we were doing to get the answers.”

Be right. At the time, Besser admitted that the CDC’s handling of the swine flu outbreak would be more like a marathon than a sprint.  Only correct and supported information would be communicated as it was available to avoid any rash decision making based on faulty assumptions.

Be credible. Experts credit Besser’s calm, consistent, and up-front messages with enhancing his credibility.  A conservative and honest approach to communication strategy helped to eliminate the chances of missteps that would compromise the public’s confidence.

Crisis communication is a part of any media relations plan at Russo Partners, and we are committed to straightforward and clear messaging, even in moments of unforeseen circumstances.  We build messages that are consistent, and consistency builds trust.  Trust is important to any company’s strong public profile.

Good News for Amira

Amira Pharmaceuticals announced some good news last week: The company has pharmacologically matched the results of a study with a murine knockout model that identified a novel target for treating idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF). Amira’s findings have already been the subject of an article in BioCentury and two stories on Xconomy.

Over 14 days of treatment with an experimental drug candidate, mice experienced a 40- to 60-percent reduction in fibrosis and inflammation, suggesting that Amira is well on its way to developing an oral medication fit to be studied in a human clinical setting.

Amira’s announcement is an exciting one, but the media’s interest in the story isn’t based solely on the merits of the data. The hits in BioCentury and Xconomy result, in large part, from preliminary footwork done by Russo Partners and Amira to familiarize reporters with the IPF space and cultivate interest in Amira’s program before the preclinical data was announced.

Our strategy on Amira’s behalf has focused on educating our media contacts about IPF and Amira’s promising program, which may produce one of the first viable treatments for this debilitating lung disease. We also highlighted the team’s focus on the bioactive lipid space and ability to rapidly develop the program – both of which provided excellent support for articles.

In working to raising awareness of the company’s earliest stage program, our goal is unusual in the realm of healthcare PR. Reporters tend to focus on the most advanced compounds in a company’s pipeline. When faced with a pitch about a preclinical program for a company like Amira with multiple clinical stage programs, they  all wanted to know, “What’s so special about this preclinical program?”

Here is where our introductory outreach to reporters becomes important. We can answer that question by educating journalists about the bleak contours of the therapeutic landscape where Amira’s drug will land if it is approved.

Approximately 50,000 people in the U.S. are diagnosed each year with IPF, which is a chronic disease marked by the accumulation of scar tissue in the lungs. There are no approved treatment options aside from a lung transplant.

Amira’s drug targets a receptor called LPA1, which is involved in inflammation and wound healing. LPA1 was identified as a potential target for IPF treatment by researchers at Harvard Medical School, who published a paper in the Jan. 2008 issue of Nature announcing that LPA1-knockout mice were better protected from fibrosis and mortality than their control counterparts.

Within 14 months, Amira replicated these results with a small molecule. The speed of this turnaround was useful in piquing reporters’ interest in Amira. Russo Partners turned the company’s findings about their experimental drug into a much bigger story by situating the data within the bigger story of IPF and the void of available treatments.

By taking the preliminary steps to educate reporters about Amira and the IPF space, we can continue to set the stage with journalists for further coverage in the months to come.

February in Review: Data, Deals and Many Developments

The Burnham Institute for Medical Research was in the national media spotlight with Nature Structural & Molecular Biology’s publication of a paper written by Robert Liddington, Ph.D.  The paper summarized the work of researchers with Burnham, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and the Centers for Disease Control in identifying human monoclonal antibodies that neutralize a wide range of influenza viruses, including avian influenza A (H5N1). Russo Partners coordinated embargoed media outreach for Dr. Liddington that resulted in extensive print and broadcast coverage.

Cougar Biotechnology reported positive data from two Phase II trials of lead compound CB7630, abiraterone acetate, in patients with prostate cancer. Under the leadership of a former top biotech analyst, Alan Auerbach,this Los Angeles-based biopharmaceutical company is turning heads with its impressive data reports for a drug that has potential in multiple treatment settings. Russo Partners’ PR team has secured a radio interview for Alan Auerbach with Bruce Japsen, a Chicago Tribune healthcare business reporter who produces segments for satellite radio news program ReachMD.

Ambrx, a San Diego life sciences company, expanded its relationship with Merck Serono, a division of Merck KGaA, through a collaboration for the development of ARX424, a preclinical product candidate for the treatment of multiple sclerosis. This is the second collaboration between the two companies.  The first involves the development of a long-acting growth hormone that is in Phase II studies. Russo Partners’ PR program for Ambrx has helped to raise the profile of the company’s protein-optimization technology, ReCODE, among the pharma community.

Paris-based Fovea and Cambridge, Mass.-based Dyax entered into a development and commercialization agreement for the ocular formulation of DX-88 for the treatment of retinal diseases.  Fovea is one of the many European companies for which Russo Partners provides U.S. communications support.

Other February highlights included:

-Our coordination of media and investor meetings for multiple clients at the BIO CEO & Investor Conference in New York City

-The taping of an interview segment with Geron’s Tom Okarma and Nightly Business Report’s Susie Gharib for a special 30 Top Innovations episode    

-The handling of media relations for the third consecutive year at the Stem Cell Summit in New York City, where we set up CNBC for live broadcasts that featured interviews of CEOs with presenting companies

-Our coordination of a lengthy science/medicine story planning meeting with one of 60 Minutes’ senior producers

-Our participation in annual investor day events for two market-leading companies: St. Jude Medical and QIAGEN

-The welcoming of several new clients — Amira Pharmaceuticals, Calixa Therapeutics and Savara Pharmaceuticals — to our family of healthcare companies