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Epidemiologists using social media to track spread of disease

Current medical news and unique business news for anyone who cares about the health-care industry.

Tracking disease from Internet data? Social media isn’t just for shameless promotion anymore. Epidemiologists are using sites like Facebook, Twitter, Google and Foursquare to track the spread of disease faster than even the CDC has been able to. But skeptics say Internet data may be unhelpful and skewed, since most social media users are younger. What’s your take?

Small medical device start-ups appealed to more investors in 2010. According to a companiesandmarkets.com report released Tuesday, venture capital and private equity deals in small medical device companies grew 38 percent globally between 2009 and 2010. The United States was the biggest market for investment, followed by Europe, Canada and Asia-Pacific. More than half of the 769 investments made in 2010 were with start-up medical device makers. Healthcare IT, diagnostic imaging and orthopedic device companies were the most popular among investors.

Array BioPharma lays off 20 percent of workforce. The Boulder-based cancer and inflammatory drug maker says it’s putting more focus on developing clinical programs by canning 70 support and research positions.

Is immunotherapy the way of the future? After the recent FDA approvals of Dendreon Corp.’s Provenge and Bristol-Myers Squibb Co.’s Yervoy, more scientists are turning their attention to developing immunotherapy cancer drugs that use the body’s own defenses to fight off the disease. But not so fast. Despite the promise these drugs provide, they face several hurdles including serious side effects and high prices — they’re some of the most expensive treatments in healthcare.

FDA cracks down on two medical product makers. Until they establish appropriate quality control programs, H&P Industries Inc. and The Triad Group Inc. can no longer manufacture or distribute medical devices after the FDA filed an injunction against them. Triad has issued five voluntary recalls since December.

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