Virtual reality had its heyday in video games and TV in the mid-90s before fizzling out of the mainstream. But with the Oculus Rift virtual reality headset sending ripples throughout the tech and gaming community at this year’s SXSW, virtual reality is poised to make a comeback-- and some local places are using it in ways that might surprise you.
The digital health-tracking craze is in full swing. Tech companies are trying to help us quantify ourselves and stay in better shape. MIT startup Quanttus has come out of stealth mode this week, with $22 million in funding from East and West Coast investors. The 25-person company makes a wrist-worn device that monitors vital signs such as heart rate, blood pressure, and respiration. The idea is to give both consumers and doctors new insights into personal health. One question is how the emerging Boston health-tech cluster will compete with big guys like Apple, Google, Jawbone, and Fitbit. But we certainly have the brainpower and medical expertise to make it interesting.
2014 is shaping up to be the year of cyber security. With each new data breach or hacking operation we hear about, tech companies are scrambling to fix the problem and cash in. Waltham security firm Bit9 has acquired Texas startup Carbon Black as it reinvents itself to respond to cyber attacks as well as preventing them. The company has also raised a new round of venture capital, bringing its total to $120 million. Meanwhile, a young Boston-Israeli startup called Cybereason is emerging as a leader in profiling hacker behavior. In the end it’s probably an unwinnable arms race, but it could be good for business.
Massachusetts needs to do a better job of attracting talent with a strong mix of hard and soft skills — in other words, someone who can code, but is also culturally savvy, even bilingual — and can easily adapt in a team setting, according to The Massachusetts Technology Collaborative's annual Innovation Index.
American TV host Ed Sullivan, left, talks with three members of the British pop group The Beatles during a rehearsal for their appearance on his TV show, in New York, Feb. 8, 1964. From left, Sullivan, John Lennon, Ringo Starr and Paul McCartney. George Harrison, the fourth member of the group missed the rehearsal due to illness.
The IPO express might be slowing down a bit. There were two new public companies in Boston this week — and two lukewarm receptions in the marketplace. Eleven Biotherapeutics, which makes drugs for eye diseases, raised $50 million in an IPO but priced its stock well below the projected range. And vaccine maker Genocea Biosciences raised $66 million in its IPO and saw its stock remain flat. Even Dicerna Pharmaceuticals, whose stock tripled on its first trading day last week, has come back to earth. All in all it’s been a down week, and the market is looking selective — which might be healthy in the long run.
In one of the busiest weeks in biotech, three local companies have made big news. Alnylam has received a $700 million investment from Genzyme, which is good for a 12 percent ownership stake in the RNA interference company. Alkermes has raised $250 million in new cash as it expands its treatments for diabetes, schizophrenia, and other diseases. And Moderna Therapeutics, a heavily funded startup trying to create a new class of drugs around messenger RNA, has scored another $125 million in investment and is spinning out a separate cancer-drug outfit. If its technology holds up in clinical trials, Moderna could be the biggest of them all.
These days, students navigate social media sites as easily as the hallways.
And Max, Michael and Hyacinth — seventh graders at Weston Middle School, are among them. Each has an iPhone, and using mobile apps comes as second nature to them. They also know that social media can be a tool for bullies.
When all is said and done, 2013 might be the year the Boston tech scene got bought out. From Acme Packet to Zipcar, a number of well-known companies have been scooped up by outsiders in networking, security, mobile software, and transportation.
The big deals continue to flow in Boston biotech. Vertex Pharmaceuticals has sold the international royalty rights to its hepatitis C drug to Janssen for $152 million. The company is going through a layoff and is doubling down on its treatments for cystic fibrosis and other diseases. Meanwhile, Cambridge startup Moderna Therapeutics has raked in $110 million in new funding as it develops its messenger RNA approach to help the body make its own drugs. Depending on how well it actually works, the startup could be one of the biggest stories in biotech or one of its greatest disappointments.
The biotech rollercoaster ride continues in Boston. On the one hand, Natick-based Karyopharm Therapeutics has just raised $109 million in an initial public offering; the cancer drug maker is the ninth local biotech to go public this year. On the other hand, at least three public companies are struggling: Ariad Pharmaceuticals is laying off 40 percent of its staff after pulling its leukemia drug off the market, Curis has hit an FDA snag with its experimental cancer drug, and Immunogen’s drug for lung cancer has flopped in a clinical trial. Just a reminder that biotech drugs are always a risky business.
What do the world-champion Boston Red Sox have to do with personal health and wellness? Well, besides being the feel-good story of the year, the team’s nutritionist Tara Mardigan also works with a local health tech startup.
With “back to school” in the air, there’s a lot going on in education technology around Boston. The edtech accelerator LearnLaunchX is graduating its first class of seven startups this week. What they do ranges from online-video tools to after-school programs and grading software. For example, Cognii is trying to automate the grading of written tests and assignments- wouldn’t that be something.
There’s a fight brewing nationally over footwear. As New England-based sneaker companies like New Balance and Saucony make their products here and overseas, they’re at odds over import taxes. And they’re taking their concerns to the federal government.
Osa Ohiomoba is one of millions who've signed up for free massive open online courses. They're all trying to balance schedules, hoping to learn something that will give them the edge in a tight job market.