In today’s Bulldog wrapup of science and technology news:
- The FDA approves the first muscular dystrophy drug
- The MDA celebrates the news (watch video)
- Wal-Mart closes its Jet buy
- Yelp warns a lawsuit could mean end to reviews
- Media sue FBI for information about iPhone hacking tool
- FDA Oks 1st muscular dystrophy drug; awaits proof it works
Federal regulators on Monday granted tentative approval to the first drug for a rare form of muscular dystrophy.
The approval comes nearly five months after the Food and Drug Administration and a panel of outside advisers panned the drug, saying there was little evidence that it helped. But regulators faced a public backlash from patients’ families, politicians and physicians who pushed for the largely unproven medication.
The Muscular Dystrophy Association celebrated the decision.
(Watch video at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Orig6mpuSxU )
Sarepta Therapeutics’ Exondys 51 aims to treat a rare form of Duchenne muscular dystrophy, a deadly inherited disease that causes muscle weakness, loss of movement and eventually death.
- Wal-Mart completes purchase of Jet.com
Wal-Mart said Monday it has completed its purchase of online retailer Jet.com for $3 billion in cash plus $300 million in stock, an acquisition aimed at helping the world’s largest retailer attract younger and more affluent customers to drive online sales.
The hefty price tag shows how heavily Wal-Mart is willing to invest as it tries to increase online sales. Wal-Mart has said it will incorporate some of Jet.com’s “smart technology” that lowers prices in real times by looking for ways to cut costs. However, Wal-Mart and Jet.com will operate as separate brands.
- Yelp warns California lawsuit could scrub critical reviews
Yelp.com is warning that a California lawsuit targeting critical posts about a law firm could lead to the removal of negative reviews and leave consumers with a skewed assessment of restaurants and other businesses.
Lawyer Dawn Hassell said the business review website is exaggerating the stakes of her legal effort, which aims only to remove from Yelp lies, not just negative statements, that damaged the reputation of her law firm.
Though its impact is in dispute, the case is getting attention from some of the biggest Internet companies in the world, which say a ruling against Yelp could stifle free speech online and effectively gut other websites whose main function is offering consumersreviews of services and businesses.
A San Francisco judge determined the posts were defamatory and ordered the company to remove them two years ago, which a second judge and a state appeals court upheld.
Yelp is asking the state Supreme Court to overturn the order. The high court faces an Oct. 14 deadline to decide whether to hear the case or let the lower-court ruling stand. Experts expect Yelp to prevail.
- AP, other media sue FBI for details on iPhone hacking tool
The Associated Press and two other news organizations have sued the FBI to learn who the government paid and how much it spent to hack into aniPhone in its investigation into last year’s San Bernardino, California, massacre.
The lawsuit seeks records about the FBI’s contract with an unidentified vendor who provided a tool to unlock the phone used by Syed Rizwan Farook, who with his wife killed 14 people at a holiday gathering of county workers in December 2015.
Gannett, the parent company of USA Today, and Vice Media LLC joined the complaint with the AP, seeking to learn more about the mysterious transaction that cut short a legal dispute in which the government sought to force Apple Inc. to unlock the phone.
“Understanding the amount that the FBI deemed appropriate to spend on the tool, as well as the identity and reputation of the vendor it did business with, is essential for the public to provide effective oversight of government functions and help guard against potential improprieties,” said the suit, filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia under the U.S. Freedom of Information Act.
In rejecting earlier requests to divulge the information, the government had said revealing the records could affect “enforcement proceedings,” but did not elaborate. FBIspokesman Chris Allen declined to comment Friday.
The case stems from the FBI’s announcement in March that it had purchased a tool to unlock the iPhone, aborting the court fight with Apple that had in turn triggered a debate about the proper balance between electronic privacy and national security.