New York Genome Center and IBM Watson Will Try to Create Personalized Cancer treatment from analyzed genomic data

The New York Genome Center (NYGC) and IBM today announced an initiative to accelerate a new era of genomic medicine with the use of IBM’s Watson cognitive system. IBM and NYGC will test a unique Watson prototype designed specifically for genomic research as a tool to help oncologists deliver more personalized care to cancer patients.

Despite groundbreaking discoveries into the genetic drivers of cancers like glioblastoma, few patients benefit from personalized treatment that is tailored to their individual cancer mutations. 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 five years.

This joint NYGC Watson initiative aims to speed up this complex process, identifying patterns in genome sequencing and medical data to unlock insights that will help clinicians bring the promise of genomic medicine to their patient.

The new cloud-based Watson system will be designed to analyze genetic data along with comprehensive biomedical literature and drug databases. 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. Given the depth and speed of Watson’s ability to review massive databases, the goal of the collaboration is to increase the number of patients who have access to care options tailored to their disease’s DNA.

First Watson Application in Genomic Research

Watson will complement rapid genome sequencing and is expected to dramatically reduce the time it takes to correlate an individual’s genetic mutations with reams of medical literature, study findings, and therapeutic indications that may be relevant. The intention is to provide comprehensive information to enable clinicians to consider a variety of treatment options that the clinician can tailor to their patient’s genetic mutations. It will also help NYGC scientists understand the data detailing gene sequence variations between normal and cancerous biopsies of brain tumors.

“As genomic research progresses and information becomes more available, we aim to make the process of analysis much more practical and accessible through cloud-based, cognitive innovations like Watson,” said Dr. John E. Kelly III, Senior Vice President and Director of IBM Research. “With this knowledge, doctors will be able to attack cancer and other devastating diseases with treatments that are tailored to the patient’s and disease’s own DNA profiles. If successful, this will be a major transformation that will help improve the lives of millions of patients around the world.”

The goal is to have the Watson genomics prototype assist clinicians in providing personalized genomic analytics information as part of a NYGC clinical research study.

The solution has been under development for the past decade in IBM’s Computational Biology Center at IBM Research.

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