To coincide with the one-year anniversary of Apple visionary Steve Jobs’ death from a neuroendocrine tumour, or NET, a group of guerrilla fund makers have launched iCancer, a crowd sourcing campaign aiming to raise £2 million to kick start human trials of a drug which may have saved Jobs’ life.
Brought together by a chain of events little over a month ago author Alexander Masters, director of communications at the University of Roehampton, Dominic Nutt, and digital and social media consultant, Liz Scarff are using social media to raise awareness of a possible cure which could be thrown away if funding is not secured.
The virus, discovered by gene therapists in Sweden Professor Magnus Essand and Dr Justyna Leja, has been found to destroy all traces of NET during animal trials. However as Essand and Leja published the results of their findings they cannot secure a patent for the virus and without a patent drug companies will not invest in the necessary human trials as there is no profit to be made.
Director of communications at the University of Roehampton, Nutt, who has NET himself, explained to The Drum in a recent interview how iCancer came into fruition: “About a month ago Alexander wrote a piece in the Telegraph saying there was these treatments out there and no one was funding them. He was going crazy, as Alexander’s best friend is in a difficult situation with her particular cancer, a NET cancer.
“When I saw his piece, because I know people at the telegraph so I phoned up and said “if you want to do anymore on this, I’ve got it [NET] and I’m happy to help”. They said why don’t you write a piece and, by the way, here’s Alexander’s email you might want to get in touch with him…soon after we met up for a chat in Victoria station we came up with some ideas and a few days later I called Liz and we thought, “Let’s do it this, lets crack on!””
Speaking to The Drum about the campaign digital and social media consultant, Scarff commented: “[The] main strategy behind this is to get it out to as many digital influencers and networks as we possibly can the main constraint with this project is there is zero budget, what we’re relying on is that the story will resonate with people around the globe.”
Scarff is the driving force behind the social media led campaign which runs for 45 days, she adds: “there’s going to be different ebbs and flows throughout it so we’re going to be looking at doing things like getting Professor Essand to do some Facebook chats so people that are interested in the science side of the campaign can talk to him, we’re working with the YouTube community and running some creative projects to get them on board and also working with key bloggers in as many countries as we can.”
The team picked Steve Jobs’ anniversary as, according to Nutt, “we put our finger in the air and we thought that seems like a good hook,” he continued, “we’re trying to create some kind of synergy around that and if we can, for want of a better phrase, create some positive energy around that.
"We are positive and optimistic as a bunch of people, so that’s what we’re trying to create.”
Scarff added: “Launching on the anniversary of Steve Jobs death is important as it embodies the ethos that he took to solving problems. He wouldn’t slink around things or let the fact that there is no budget for this get in his way, he would come up with something creative that would solve the problem and that’s what we’re doing.”