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Navinet and Vitality use Internet for Health, Constellation Gets to Series A, and Other Boston-Area Life Sciences News

It was a mixed week of business and science, with a couple of stories on health IT companies to round things out.

—Luke reported on Thursday that Cambridge, MA-based Alnylam (NASDAQ: ALNY) is pushing forward with its Vancouver, BC-based partner Tekmira to create RNA interference drugs to treat cancer. The partnership is focusing on ways of using lipids to protect RNAi drug molecules until they get where they need to be in the body. A drug using this technology to treat liver cancer is currently in clinical trials.

—“Epigenetics”—using proteins and other molecules to turn genes off—may be another way to treat cancer, according to Cambridge, MA-based Constellation Pharmaceuticals, which collected $17.2 million in Series A financing last week . It was the last installment in a $32 million round that the company it raised last year. Epigenetics is also being used to treat infections and neurological disorders, but for now Constellation is focused on cancer, Ryan reported.

—On the business front, Ryan also wrote last week about a Wall Street Journal report that Cambridge, MA-based Momenta Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: MNTA) is facing an ethics complaint from rival Amphastar Pharmaceuticals, of Rancho Cucamonga, CA. Amphastar is alleging that Momenta has had special, unethical access to an FDA evaluator whose approval both firms need in order to manufacture their blood thinner drugs, which are similar.

—In the health IT world, Wade wrote about a Cambridge, MA-based startup, Vitality, whose GlowCaps product is designed to remind people when to take their pills. The system, which can only be bought through Amazon, fits on a standard pill bottle and plays an alarm sound when it’s time to take a pill, then senses whether or not the bottle was opened. If the bottle goes unopened for two hours, the cap sends a message through a wireless internet connection to Vitality, which initiates an automated phone call to the home. Data on how well patients keep to their regimens can be turned into a report for the patient, caregiver, or family member.

—Ryan profiled another Cambridge-based health IT company, Navinet, which runs what is possibly the nation’s largest real-time healthcare communications network. The company provide doctors with instant access to a patient’s insurance information, benefits eligibility and other information over the Internet. The company is also looking to streamline other services for doctors, such as payment collection. The private company was originally funded by venture capitalists but has been profitable for seven years, CEO Bradley Waugh told Ryan.