IBM Watson Health will use the power of cognitive computing to help Pfizer with the development of cancer drugs.
The Armonk, N.Y.-based computer giant's supercomputer Watson will help Pfizer speed up research and development of drugs that use the body's immune system to fight cancer. Pfizer claims to be one of the first companies to use Watson's abilities for drug discovery and the first to use it for immuno-oncology—lucrative types of drugs that could be a major revenue source for Pfizer if its research succeeds.
Watson uses machine learning, natural language processing and other cognitive reasoning abilities to comb medical literature, patient data and other sources, including Pfizer's proprietary data. Researchers will use Watson to analyze and tests hypotheses, as well as to conduct more efficient safety assessments of potential treatments.
The most promising recent advancements in immunotherapy could cost as much as $130,000 for a 12-week course of treatment.
The Watson for Drug Discovery service incorporates artificial knowledge of over 25 million Medline abstracts, over 1 million full-text medical journal articles and records of 4 million patents. Researchers can only read an average of 200 to 300 articles a year.
“We believe that the next great medical innovations will emerge as researchers and scientists find new patterns in existing bodies of knowledge,” said Lauren O'Donnell, Watson Health's vice president of life sciences. “In order to do this, they need access to R&D tools that can help them efficiently navigate the opportunities and challenges presented by the explosion of data globally.”
Watson is being used at Johnson & Johnson, Medtronic, the Cleveland Clinic, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center and a number of other organizations to devise treatments and identify patterns in diseases and outcomes. IBM recently announced a joint venture with UPMC that will use the platform to manage the Pittsburgh-based health system's supply-related spending.
“With the incredible volume of data and literature available in this complex field, we believe that tapping into advanced technologies can help our scientific experts more rapidly identify novel combinations of immune-modulating agents,” said Mikael Dolsten, Pfizer's president of worldwide research and development. “We are hopeful that by leveraging Watson's cognitive capabilities in our drug discovery efforts, we will be able to bring promising new immuno-oncology therapeutics to patients more quickly.”