IBM puts Watson to work at Johnson & Johnson and Sanofi R&D

By Ellyn McMullin, Research Associate, Axendia, Inc.

Three years after its victory on the TV quiz show Jeopardy! IBM Watson has evolved to represent a new era of computing. Today, Watson is no longer just the world’s most famous game-playing computer. IBM has put Watson to work in various industries. In healthcare, IBM is co-developing an application with Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, and partnering with WellPoint, the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, and the Cleveland Clinic Lerner College of Medicine.
IBM announced that it is putting Watson to work in Pharma R&D at Johnson & Johnson and Sanofi.

Infographic: IBM Watson Transforms R&D Discoveries with Data - courtesy: IBM
Infographic: IBM Watson Transforms R&D Discoveries with Data – courtesy: IBM

“Watson Discovery Advisor” is a new cloud delivered service which will focus on research and development projects in pharmaceutical and biotechnology. Using Watson Discovery Advisor, it is expected that researchers will uncover new relationships and recognize unexpected patterns among data which has the potential to significantly improve and accelerate the drug discovery process.

Leading Life Science companies are deploying Watson Discovery Advisor to advance discoveries in ongoing research projects.

  • Johnson & Johnson is collaborating with the IBM Watson Discovery Advisor team to teach Watson to read and understand scientific papers that detail clinical trial outcomes used to develop and evaluate medications and other treatments. This collaboration hopes to accelerate comparative effectiveness studies of drugs, which helps doctors match a drug with the right set of patients to maximize effectiveness and minimize side effects. Typically, comparative effectiveness studies are done manually, requiring three people to spend an average of 10 months (2.5 person-years) just to collect the data and prepare them for use before they are able to start analyzing, generating and validating a hypothesis. In this research study, the team hopes to teach Watson to quickly synthesize the information directly from the medical literature, allowing researchers to start asking questions about the data immediately to determine the effectiveness of a treatment compared to other medications, as well as its side effects.
  • Sanofi is betting on Watson to speed up the discovery of alternate indications for existing drugs (drug re-purposing). Because Watson is able to understand and extract key information by reading millions of pages of scientific literature it can visualizes relationships between drugs and other potential diseases they could target while providing supporting evidence each step of the way. Drug Safety and Toxicity is a major driver of the high failure rate in clinical development / trials. Sanofi is exploring how Watson’s ability to understand, extract and organize toxicological information can enable researchers to make better informed decisions with respect to candidate progression

Through the use of Watson Discovery Advisor leading Pharma companies hope to empower researchers with a powerful tool to significantly improve and accelerate the drug discovery process in research and science. This, in turn, would help increase the impact of R&D investments, accelerate time to market and lead to significant breakthroughs.

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