International Business Machines Corp. (IBM) Watson partners with NY Genome Center to fight brain cancer

Posted Mar 19, 2014

International Business Machines Corp. (NYSE:IBM) announced today it has partnered with the New York Genome Center to fight brain cancer. Watson, the cloud computing system, will be used for genetic research to help sequence DNA for the treatment of glioblastoma, which is the most common type of brain cancer in U.S. adults. The New York Genome Center is a consortium of academic and medical officials.

The Genome Center will be using Watson to sequence the DNA of cancer tumors at a much faster rate than what is possible with humans. The DNA information will be combined with clinical information and fed to Watson. Watson does not work like most other computers — it depends on information that is inputted into the system.

Watson learns by reading large amounts of information and combines it with results of previous work to find answers. This makes Watson ideal for the healthcare and finance industry.

There is a large amount of data involved with DNA sequencing, which must be combined with the clinical data involved in a patient’s case. For example, analyzing one person’s brain tumor would require the sequencing of 800 billion base pairs of DNA. It took New York Genome’s president and CEO Dr. Robert Darnell a year to sequence 140 pairs by himself. Watson can sequence 75 million base pairs in one second.

“This is the proverbial needle in the haystack and the haystack is enormous,” said Kelly. “Watson can do in seconds what would take people years. And we can get it down to a really personal level.”

Doctors are going to start the project with 20 brain cancer patients. The DNA of the patients will be sequenced and run through Watson to figure out the best ways for treatment.

IBM also has a partnership with the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. Watson is also used for helping treat cancer there.