The New York Genome Centre (NYGC) and IBM have announced an initiative to accelerate genomic medicine with the use of IBM’s Watson cognitive system. IBM and NYGC will test a Watson prototype, designed specifically for genomic research, as a tool to help oncologists deliver more personalised care to cancer patients.
The new cloud-based Watson service 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. 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.
NYGC and its medical partner institutions plan to initially evaluate Watson’s ability in relation to patients with glioblastoma, an aggressive and malignant brain cancer that kills more than 13,000 people in the USA each year. Despite recent discoveries into the genetic drivers of cancers such as glioblastoma, few patients benefit from 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.
‘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, connect that quickly to all available biomedical literature and translate that information into better treatments for patients,’ said Robert Darnell, President and Scientific Director of the New York Genome Center.
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. It will also help NYGC scientists understand the data detailing gene sequence variations between normal and cancerous biopsies of brain tumours.