IBM’s Watson Shows How Big Data Helps Drug Discovery

Laboratories are the traditional setting for drug discovery. But some of earliest drug discovery work is now happening in a different kind of laboratory — a computer lab. IBM has made no secret of how its Watson supercomputer can bring the power of big data analytics to health care. Now Big Blue is showing how its computing power could also be used to find new treatments for Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), the neuromuscular disorder more commonly referred to as Lou Gehrig’s disease.

IBM Watson Health and the Barrow Neurological Institute have been working for about a year to research the genes and proteins that may have a role in ALS, a degenerative disease that leads to the steady loss of voluntary muscle control. Watson used its analytics power to process Barrow’s knowledge about the disease, along with published information about ALS, according to Next Big Future. In only a matter of months, Watson had organized all of the nearly 1,500 genes in the human genome and offered predictions about which genes might be associated with the disease.

Barrow reviewed the results and found that eight of the top ten genes identified by Watson had links to ALS. Even more impressive, five of the genes that Watson identified had never been previously associated with the disease. The analytics power of Watson saved precious time for the researchers.

“IBM Watson for Drug Discovery, with its robust knowledge base, was able to rapidly give us new and novel information we would not otherwise have had,” Robert Bowser, director of the Gregory W. Fulton ALS Research Center at Barrow said.

A cure for ALS is still far away, but much of the challenge with drug discovery is knowing where to start. The findings of IBM Watson and Barrow give scientists a good starting point to focus their efforts. Perhaps just as important, Watson has shown what its power can offer drug researchers.

The life sciences is just starting to tap into big data and the various ways it can be utilized. To hear more about how you can can harness big data to enhance your customer’s experience, attend the 9th Digital Pharma Europe conference, taking place May 17-19, 2017 in London, UK at the Radisson Blu Edwardian Heathrow Hotel. Join over 200 life science leaders from across Europe and around the world who are improving customer centricity and patient outcomes through digital health and transformative initiatives. To learn more about this event please download the brochure or visit the website. Click here to register and be sure to mention Priority Code C865BLOG.


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