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Innovation Economy

Start-up’s collar tracks pet’s health

Highlights from the Innovation Economy blog.

Anyone who has ever owned a pet has had one of those visits to the veterinarian after which you wish you had gone in earlier. Something easily treatable may have gotten complicated, or perhaps Sparky has just stoically suffered through more pain than he should have had to.

A start-up called PetPace is developing a product that could supply a solution: a collar to continuously monitor your pet’s health and send an early warning to you and your vet when something seems amiss, via phone, text message, or e-mail.

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The company, based in Burlington and Tel Aviv, plans to launch the product this year, chairman Avner Schneur says. The expected price: $150 for the collar and a base station that collects data from it, plus a $15- to $20-per-month subscription fee for the ongoing monitoring.

“There really is a gap in our ability to monitor pets,” Schneur says. “They don’t complain. There’s no preventive maintenance. When there’s a problem, you tend to discover it too late.”

A matchbox-size device affixed to the collar holds sensors and a radio that transmits data to the base station when the pet comes within 1,000 yards of it, Schneur says. The sensors track the animal’s movement, temperature, respiration, and pulse — no mean feat, says Schneur, when you’re trying to do it through fur. A microphone listens for sounds like drinking, barking, or stomach gurgling. Positioning and movement sensors like those in a smartphone can tell when the animal is running, laying down, or, um, ­answering nature’s call.

The battery in the collar will run for several months between charges.

Once the data are sent to PetPaces’s servers, the information is compared with what’s normal for your animal, based on past behavior, and what’s normal for the breed.

“If there’s any deviation, we can create an alert,” Schneur says. “One of the things we can see is behavior that can indicate an animal is in pain, which is ordinarily hard to see.” PetPace has been assembling data for about 250 dog breeds. The collar will also work for cats — as long as they weigh at least 10 pounds.

The company has been testing its technology at several pet hospitals. Schneur says hospitals will be the company’s initial focus, but PetPace will eventually sell the collar to consumers who simply want to monitor their pet’s well-being. They plan to rely on veterinary practices as a primary sales channel.

Bay State again tops life-sciences list

The Massachusetts life-sciences industry is again taking top honors, according to a report from the commercial real estate firm Jones Lang LaSalle. The report ranks the Boston area’s life-sciences scene as the premier research and development cluster in the world, with more than 74,000 life-sciences employees; five of the top eight US hospitals funded by the National Institutes of Health; and numerous major research universities, including Harvard, MIT, and Tufts.

Behind Boston in the rankings are San Diego and the San Francisco Bay Area. This is the second year that Jones Lang has issued its report and the second year that Boston has topped the list.

Kendall Square alone has 2.5 million square feet of new life-sciences buildings in the works, says a Jones Lang vice president, Don Domoretsky. Big pharma companies and smaller biotechs “are feeding off the innovation produced by the universities,” he says. “All these decisions are driven mainly by talent and access to intellectual capital.”

The asking price for top-notch space in that part of Cambridge is $65 per square foot, according to the report.

“We’re riding a nice wave right now,” says Peter Abair, director of economic development and global affairs at the Massachusetts Biotechnology Council. “We’re getting investment from the traditional pharmaceutical side of the industry and still generating these second-generation biotech companies like Momenta, Ariad, AVEO, and Ironwood, which are expanding here and making big investments in Massachusetts.”

Visit www.boston.com/innovation for the full Innovation Economy blog, updated daily.

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