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NYGC, IBM Partner to Use Watson to Personalize Oncology Treatments

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – The New York Genome Center and IBM announced today that they will use IBM's Watson system to help oncologists provide more personalized care for their patients.

The partners plan to initially evaluate the abilities of a cloud-based prototype of Watson that is designed specifically for genomic research to help oncologists select more tailored treatments for patients with glioblastoma, an aggressive and malignant brain cancer that kills more than 13,000 people in the US annually. They plan to analyze whole genome and other kinds of data from about 20 patients selected to participate in an NYGC-led clinical research study focused on gliobastoma.

The cloud-based Watson system is designed to analyze genetic data alongside information from biomedical literature and drug databases. It also has the ability to learn from new patient scenarios, and as more information becomes available through new medical research, journal articles, and clinical studies.

Through this initiative the collaborators hope to shorten the time needed to correlate data from genome sequencing to information in medical journals and clinical records as well as to further develop and refine Watson for more personalized cancer care. They also hope to increase the number of patients who have access to treatment options that are specific to their particular cancers.

"Since the human genome was first mapped more than a decade ago, we've made tremendous progress in understanding the genetic drivers of disease," Robert Darnell, NYGC's CEO, president, and scientific director, said in a statement. "The real challenge before us is how to make sense of massive quantities of genetic data and translate that information into better treatments for patients.

"Applying the cognitive computing power of Watson is going to revolutionize genomics and accelerate the opportunity to improve outcomes for patients with deadly diseases by providing personalized treatment," he added.

"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," enabling physicians to "attack cancer and other devastating diseases with treatments that are tailored to the patient's and disease's own DNA profiles," John Kelly, senior vice president and director of IBM Research, said.

IBM is NYGC's first technology partner and will support the institute's efforts to translate genomic research into clinical solutions. Recently, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced a $105 million investment to fund a partnership between NYGC and the University at Buffalo's Center for Computational Research that is aimed at advancing genomics research in New York State.