In today’s Bulldog wrapup of technology and life science news:
- Twitter cracks down on terror
- J&J pursues diabetes cure
- McKinney loses major account
- LinkedIn’s shares plunge 44 percent
- Merck sales miss estimates
- Twitter moves to actively seek out terrorist supporters
Twitter is now using spam-fighting technology to seek out accounts that might be promoting terrorist activity and is examining other accounts related to those flagged for possible removal, the company says.
The announcement demonstrated efforts by Twitter to automatically identify tweets supporting terrorism, reflecting increased pressure placed by the U.S. government for social media companies to respond to abuse more proactively. Child pornography has previously been the only abuse that was automatically flagged for human review on social media, using a different kind of technology that sources a database of known images.
Twitter also said Friday it has suspended more than 125,000 accounts for threatening or promoting terrorist acts, mainly related to Islamic State militants, in the last eight months. Social media has increasingly become a tool for recruitment and radicalization that’s used by the Islamic State group and its supporters, who by some reports have sent tens of thousands of tweets per day.
- Johnson & Johnson, ViaCyte testing possible diabetes cure
Johnson & Johnson, continuing its long quest for a Type 1 diabetes cure, is joining forces with biotech company ViaCyte to speed development of the first stem cell treatment that could cure the life-threatening hormonal disorder.
They’ve already begun testing it in a small number of diabetic patients, a first. If it works as well in patients as it has in animals, it would amount to a cure, ending the need for frequent insulin injections and blood sugar testing.
The companies have agreed to combine patents covering their research under ViaCyte.
The therapy involves inducing embryonic stem cells in a lab dish to turn into insulin-producing cells, then putting them inside a small capsule that is implanted under the skin. The capsule protects the cells from the immune system, which otherwise would attack them as invaders.
- McKinney loses Nationwide account
Durham-based creative agency McKinney has lost Nationwide, a major account the firm had served for seven years.
“The loss of the Nationwide account is expected to trigger layoffs at the agency, but it’s unclear how many employees will be affected,” according to reporter David Ranii of The News and Observer in Raleigh.
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- LinkedIn shares tumble on weak forecast for 2016
LinkedIn shares plunged 44 percent to close last week after the company reported better-than-expected results for the fourth quarter but provided a weak forecast for 2016.
The professional networking service’s adjusted earnings and revenue beat Wall Street’s estimates for the last three months of 2015, thanks to strong demand for its hiring and recruiting software. But it issued a forecast that was far below what analysts were expecting.
LinkedIn also said it will phase out a new online advertising product that hasn’t worked out as planned, which will cause it to forego roughly $50 million in near-term revenue.
Mountain View, California-based LinkedIn Corp. reported a loss of $8.4 million, compared with a $3 million profit a year earlier. That amounted to a loss of 6 cents ashare in the latest quarter, but the company said it earned 94 cents a share after adjusting for stock compensation and other one-time items. Analysts surveyed by FactSet were expecting adjusted earnings of 78 cents a share on revenue of $857 million.
Fourth-quarter revenue rose 34 percent to $862 million.
Despite the strong finish for 2015, the company disappointed investors by forecasting adjusted earnings for the current period will be 55 cents a share on revenue of roughly $820 million. Analysts were expecting first-quarter adjusted earnings of 75 cents ashare on sales of $868 million.
The company also forecast revenue for the full year will be $3.6 billion to $3.65 billion, lower than analysts’ estimates of $3.9 billion. Among other things, LinkedIn said growth in a key segment of its “Talent Solutions” division, which provides software tools for employers and recruiters, will slow from 30 percent last year to mid-20 percent in 2016. It blamed an economic downturn in Europe and Asia.
- Merck beats 4Q profit forecast, misses Street view on sales
Merck & Co. posted an 87 percent drop in fourth-quarter profit compared with last year, when the drugmaker had a huge gain from the sale of its consumer health business. It beat Wall Street profit forecasts, but came up short on revenue.
The strong dollar and increasing pricing pressure and competition for some of its older medicines cut sales of some of Merck’s top sellers. That was partly offset by climbing sales of Merck’s newest medicines and its top vaccines. Revenue, however, dipped 3 percent.
The Kenilworth, New Jersey, company is rebuilding its decimated hepatitis C business and building up its cancer and hospital-drug franchises as it transitions to a new product cycle after its latest restructuring program. That cut more than $2.5 billion in annual spending.
Amid growing public and political anger over soaring prices, drugmakers are under pressure to limit price hikes or even lower prices for existing drugs, ending a decade as safe, steady investments.
“This is not business as usual, not in the U.S. and not globally,” said analyst Steve Brozak, president of WBB Securities, adding, “Merck gets it.”