In today’s Bulldog wrapup of life science and technology news:

  • Doctors Without Borders calls on GSK, Pfizer to cut vaccine prices
  • Etix founder buys Raleigh’s Hopscotch Music Festival
  • Facebook cracks down on hoaxes
  • Netflix growth surges
  • Twitter makes an acquisition to grow in developing nations

The details:

  • Doctors Without Borders decries vaccine prices

In a report issued Tuesday, Doctors Without Borders says the cost of treating children in developing countries with vaccines is 68 times more expensive than in 2001. It called on GSK and Pfizer to lower prices.

Both pharmaceutical giants defended themselves.

“The price to fully vaccinate a child is 68 times more expensive than it was just over a decade ago, mainly because a handful of big pharmaceutical companies are overcharging donors and developing countries for vaccines that already earn them billions of dollars in wealthy countries,” said Rohit Malpani, director of policy and analysis for MSF’s Access Campaign. “Donors will be asked to put an additional $7.5 billion dollars on the table to pay for vaccines in poor countries for the next five years, with over one third of that going to pay for one vaccine alone, the high-priced pneumococcal vaccine. Just think of how much further taxpayer money could go to vaccinate more children if vaccines were cheaper. We think it’s time for GSK and Pfizer to do their part to make vaccines more affordable for countries in the long term, because the discounts the companies are offering today are just not good enough.”

For an in-depth report, see:

  • Etix founder buys Hopscotch festival

he founder of Etix is purchasing Raleigh’s Hopscotch Music Festival, event director Greg Lowenhagen said Tuesday.

Etix’s founder, Travis Janovich, and the company’s current director of sales for fairs and festivals, Paul Laughter, are in the process of purchasing the festival. Although Etix has been a ticketing partner for the Raleigh festival since its inception five years ago, the men are purchasing the company on their own.

“As a very small startup company, we were assuming significant risk to produce a festival that had grown into a larger and more expensive endeavor each year, so with this sale, we have further stabilized Hopscotch for the future and expect to experience continued growth and sustainability. It’s an exciting time for us as an organization and for anyone who has become a fan of the festival these past five years,” Lowenhagen said Tuesday.

Lowenhagen praised Janovich and Laughter for having the “resources and motivation to carry Hopscotch into its next half-decade and beyond.”


  • Facebook tries to cut down on hoaxes

Facebook has a new fix for fibs.

The Menlo Park, California-based social media company said Tuesday that it has updated its service to reduce the number of hoaxes that appear in users’ news feeds. These posts — which include scams or deliberately false or misleading news stories — can annoy users.

Facebook will look at how often users report an item as false — a new feature — and how often users delete the item.

Facebook won’t remove the items. But it will reduce how often offending posts show up in news feeds. Posts will also appear with a message saying that many others on Facebook have reported it as false.

Facebook says humorous and satirical content should not be affected.

  • Netflix reels in 4.3M more subscribers in 4Q; stock surges

Coming off its best quarter yet, Netflix is accelerating its international expansion in hopes its original programming will hook millions more subscribers on the Internet video service.

Netflix Inc. added 13 million worldwide subscribers last year, including 4.3 million during the final three months, according to figures released Tuesday in the company’s fourth-quarter earnings report. It marked Netflix’s biggest quarter of subscriber gains ever, eclipsing the 4.07 million added in the final three months of 2013.

Earnings also rose to a new quarterly high of $83.4 million, or $1.35 per share, a 72 percent increase from the same time last year. The latest quarter included a one-time gain of $39 million from the resolution of a tax audit.

The performance drew rave reviews from investors as Netflix’s stock surged $55.35, or nearly 16 percent, to $404.15 in extended trading. The shares still remain well below their record high of $489.29 reached four months ago.

  • Twitter buys ZipDial in bid for users in emerging markets

Twitter said Tuesday that it plans to buy Indian mobile marketing company ZipDial as it tries to reach new users in developing regions.

The San Francisco company did not disclose financial details or when it expects the deal to close.

ZipDial connects brands with consumers in emerging markets where mobile data is expensive and Wi-Fi connections are limited. With ZipDial, consumers bypass data charges. They call a unique phone number, hang up and ZipDial sends them free texts or voicemails with sports scores, coupons or other content and information.

Calling and hanging up is also a way to follow users of Twitter. A phone number can be assigned to politicians or celebrities, for example, and users automatically receive tweets through texts instead of going to Twitter’s website or app. Phone numbers can be printed on billboards, newspaper ads or TV commercials. Founded in 2010, ZipDial has created campaigns for beverage maker PepsiCo and toy maker Mattel Inc., according to its website.

At the end of June, Twitter had 271 million average monthly users. The company said the acquisition will give people access to its service in Brazil, India, Indonesia and other countries where people are going online for the first time.