Researchers rely on website that tracks illegal Rx sales

StreetRx is a website that lets people who illegally buy prescription drugs post the prices they paid, and how much they got, in different parts of the country. But it's not something dreamed up by users themselves — this website is a project of Epidemico, a health-data tracking company founded in 2007 by people from Boston Children's Hospital, Harvard Medical School, and MIT. Researchers hope to use the crowd-sourced data on drug trasnsactions to learn more about addiction, assess whether public policy is effective, and track how the illegal drug market evolves. Cops also use the site to help them keep tabs on the street prices and flow of drugs, particularly for undercover work.

On Friday, someone in New Bedford paid a dealer $2 for a 5-milligram hydrocodone pill, a price deemed "cheap" in the busy black market for prescription opioids. That same day in Winchendon, a person spent $5 on a 30-milligram Adderall, rated "not bad" for the popular stimulant. The sales are illegal.

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I Thought They Smelled Bad on the Outside
How do you measure a miserable winter? An MIT student might have the answer
In the final, brutal days before Boston officially broke its record for snowfall in one winter, many people had the same thought: How could there possibly ever have been a winter worse than this? Surely, the snow-measurers had to be making some mistake. Ben Letham, a PhD candidate studying applied math at MIT, was in a rare position to double-check his gut reaction. “I thought, `Oh I’ll just download the data and figure it out myself,’" Letham said with a chuckle. Read More
Boston's Innovation History
A master designer in Boston built America's fastest sailing ships
Image via <a href="">Wikimedia Commons</a>
April 1851: With a cold spring wind blowing across East Boston, the Flying Cloud slid from its shipyard and into the water for the first time. The vessel was a massive beauty, all long lines and angles, with a 1,782-ton cargo capacity, decks that spanned 225 feet, and a sharp prow built to knife through the water. The keel was made of rock maple, and three sails carried a total of 10,000 yards of canvas. Beneath the bow, a carved white-and-gold angel trumpeted the way forward. At a time when sailing merchant vessels ruled the mid-19th century seas, the Flying Cloud became the fastest "clipper" ship of the day, and was built in Boston by a pioneering shipbuilder, Donald McKay. Read More
Alcalde de Tweets
MIT's Twitter-backed research highlights Twitter use by small Spanish town
Twitter can be used for a lot of things — a personal newswire, celebrity PR machine, or meme distribution system. It appears that one small town in Spain is taking advantage of Twitter's real-time conversation stream to replace the complaint line at City Hall. Read More
This handbag built for power lunchers can also charge a phone
The 314 handbag promises to charge your phone or other devices. (Photo via Jon Lou)
A smart-looking handbag can make you look good, but a smart handbag can do much more for you. The 314, a luxury handbag made in Italy with technology designed at MIT, is both good-looking and smart – and is poised to hit the market soon. The bag can charge your cellphone or any other USB-enabled device, and light up when you are rummaging through its insides. Plus, it can order a power pack refill before the system runs out of juice. And no, you don’t have to plug in your handbag every night. Read More
Innovation Economy
For Boston's most cutting-edge biotech companies, all that's missing is the lab
Zafgen CEO Thomas Hughes at work in his office. LANE TURNER/GLOBE STAFF

Today's typical biotech tour may not include a swing through the lab — because there isn’t one. Chief executives now brag about the cost savings and flexibility of outsourcing everything from the design of a new drug to supervision of clinical trials to eventual manufacturing. “The only lab equipment we have here is the sink in the restroom,” says Tom Hughes, chief executive of Zafgen.

A decade ago, if you toured a biotech company in Cambridge, you would don plastic safety glasses and be shown through a brand-spanking-new lab, full of white-coated scientists monitoring experiments. The chief executive would boast about the sophisticated equipment, like imaging systems that could see a tumor shrink inside a rat, and how it would help them bring a new drug to market more quickly.

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Do the Robot
Rethink Robotics adds $13.4m as it pushes 'little brother' bot Sawyer
Photo via Rethink Robotics - Credit: Cassandra Zampini,
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Making robots sure isn't cheap. Consider Rethink Robotics, a Boston-based maker of bots meant to work alongside humans in manufacturing and similar industrial jobs: Since its founding in 2008, Rethink has raised a whopping $113.5 million in venture investment.  Read More
Smell Ya Later
Smell-o-phone creator expands scent ambitions to books, clothes, wearables
Goldilocks 2
David Edwards made a lot of money selling an inhalable-medicine startup to global pharmaceutical company Alkermes. Since then, the Harvard professor has turned his attention to fantastical experiments which fuse art and science, including a hard-to-define experimental workspace and gallery in Paris and a tabletop device that emits the scents of food and coffee when someone sends it a digital message. Read More
Immigration end-run
Venture capitalists open-source new visa approach for foreign-born founders
Don't expect this kind of zippy action from your Congress... After having breakfast on Wednesday at the Mandarin Oriental in Boston, venture capitalists Brad Feld and Jeff Bussgang decided to "open-source" a novel strategy for creating more H1-B visas for entrepreneurs that was developed here in Massachusetts. By the end of the day, Bussgang had created the Global EIR Coaltion website, which urges other states to adopt the approach as a way of making it easier for founders to stay in the United States as they build their companies — something the current visa system can make complex and challenging. Read More
Elementary, My Dear Watson
Say hello to Watson: IBM to base health data business in Boston area
IBM's artificial intelligence technology Watson has become a symbol for the company's attempted reinvention of itself. (Photo courtesy of IBM)

IBM has announced plans to bring its Watson Health team to Boston, Rob Weisman reported in the Globe today. Named after the IBM artificial intelligence platform that bested human contestants in the television quiz show “Jeopardy,” Watson Health will seek to store and analyze massive volumes of information on everything from patients’ health to clinical trials.

Big Blue is deploying its Watson computer system to crunch big health care data. Technology giant IBM Corp. said it will base its new Watson Health business in the Boston area, a worldwide center for health care, drug research, and biotechnology, though exactly where it will be located and how many people it will hire have yet to be determined.

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hit the books
TagNotate is the Rap Genius for researchers
A psychology professor from Connecticut is offering students writing term papers, lawyers prepping for a case, and anyone challenged with thumbing through a stack of electronic documents a way to streamline their research. His solution: an app that can help them mark up electronic documents and arrange those sections by theme. Read More
Come On!
Segway acquired by Chinese competitor, months after alleging patent infringement
The Segway, that futuristic-looking scooter that was billed as a revolutionary way to get around but quickly became a pop-culture punchline, has found another new owner. Bedford, N.H.-based Segway has been purchased by Ninebot, a China-based competitor that makes similar-looking personal transportation devices, the two companies said Wednesday. Read More
every step counts
Biogen, Patients Like Me study suggests fitness trackers can help people with multiple sclerosis
Difficulty walking is one symptom facing the 2.3 million people with multiple sclerosis. But a wrist-worn fitness tracker paired with a smartphone app could help monitor their condition and fitness routine, according to a study conducted by researchers from Cambridge pharmaceutical company Biogen and the patient community portal Patients Like Me. Read More