New York Genome Center and IBM Watson Group to advance genomic medicine

Will apply advanced analytics to genomic treatment options for brain cancer patients

The New York Genome Center (NYGC) and IBM will collaborate to test an IBM Watson prototype designed specifically for genomic research as a tool to help oncologists deliver more personalised care to cancer patients.

NYGC and its medical partner institutions plan initially to evaluate Watson’s ability to help oncologists develop more personalised care to patients with glioblastoma, an aggressive and malignant brain cancer that kills more than 13,000 people in the US each year.

In spite of groundbreaking discoveries into the genetic drivers of cancers like glioblastoma, few patients benefit from personalised treatment tailored to their individual cancer mutations. Doctors 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.

The collaboration 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 patients. The combination of NYGC’s genomic and clinical expertise coupled with the power of IBM’s Watson system will enable further development and refinement of the Watson tool with the shared goal of helping medical professionals develop personalised cancer care.

The new cloud-based Watson system will be designed to analyse 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.

'Since the human genome was first mapped more than a decade ago, we’ve made tremendous progress in understanding the genetic drivers of disease. 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,' said Robert Darnell, CEO, President and Scientific Director of the New York Genome Center. 'Applying the cognitive computing power of Watson is going to revolutionise genomics and accelerate the opportunity to improve outcomes for patients with deadly diseases by providing personalised treatment.'

'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 Kelly, 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.'