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IBM's Watson and New York Genome Center Target Genomic Treatment Options for Cancer


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Watson, the IBM computer system that won fame and fortune for its 2011 performance in Jeopardy! against two former champions of the game show, has no more time for play.  At an event in New York City, IBM announced a new collaboration with the New York Genome Center (NYGC) to advance genomic medicine using Watson.

IBM Partners with New York Genome Center to Treat Brain Cancer

The partnership will initially focus on clinical applications of IBM’s cognitive computing system to aid oncologists in DNA-based treatment for glioblastoma, the most common type of brain cancer for adults in the U.S., responsible for the deaths of more than 13,000 Americans each year.

The collaboration with NYGC is one of many that IBM will foster as part of its investment in Watson.  IBM recently invested $1 billion in Watson, creating the new Watson Group, dedicated to the development and commercialization of cloud-delivered cognitive innovations.  The move signified a strategic shift by IBM to accelerate into the marketplace a new class of software, services and apps that think, improve by learning, and discover answers and insights to complex questions from massive amounts of Big Data.  

Introducing a 'New Era of Cognitive Computing'

“This collaboration signals the emergence of a new era in computing, the cognitive computing era, and the healthcare arena is one in which these systems will increasingly benefit. DNA is the big data of biology, and Watson's ability to analyze genetic data along with comprehensive biomedical and drug data, is accelerating the race to personalize patient treatment,”  said Dr. Raminderpal Singh, IBM Researcher, Analytics, told DBTA in advance of the press conference.

According to IBM and NYGC, despite discoveries into the genetic drivers of cancers like glioblastoma, few patients benefit from personalized treatment that is tailored to their individual cancer mutations.  “Today, clinicians lack the tools and time required to bring DNA-based treatment options to their patients and to do so, they must correlate data from genome sequencing to reams of medical journals, new studies and clinical records - at a time when medical information is doubling every 5 years,”  Singh noted. The IBM collaboration with NYGC aims to speed up this complex process, using Watson to identify patterns in genome sequencing and medical data in order to unlock insights that will help clinicians bring the promise of genomic medicine to their patients.  

IBM will leverage NYGC’s genomic and clinical expertise to develop and refine a new Watson cloud-based service with the shared goal of helping medical professionals develop personalized cancer care.  The new Watson service will be designed to analyze genetic data along with comprehensive biomedical literature and drug databases. According to IBM, Watson can continually ‘learn’ as it encounters new patient scenarios, and as more information becomes available through new medical research, journal articles and clinical studies.  

Additional Applications for IBM Watson in Retail and Banking

“Watson processes information akin to how people think, representing a major shift in an organization’s ability to quickly analyze, understand and respond to Big Data,” said Singh.  “Watson’s ability to answer complex questions posed in natural language with speed, accuracy and confidence is transforming decision making across a variety of data-intensive industries, such as healthcare, retail, travel and banking.”

IBM has also partnered with other healthcare organizations to help improve how medicine is practiced, paid for and taught. These collaborations include MemorialSloan-KetteringCancerCenter, WellPoint, MD Buyline, Welltok, the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, and Cleveland Clinic Lerner College of Medicine of CaseWestern ReserveUniversity, said Singh.  Watson is also being applied to help businesses deepen and redefine engagement with customers in retail and financial services such as ANZ and DBS Bank, as well as Nielsen and Fluid.

For more information, visit www.nygenome.org.


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