January 17, 2014

Pharmaceutical R&D Game Changer: Could Watson Revolutionize Healthcare and Research?

The CECON Group’s experts and consultants are tuned in to the latest news and developments in their fields. A story that caught the attention of our clinical trial design experts and medical device experts last week was IBM’s unveiling of the IBM Watson Group.

From Quiz Show to Breakthrough
It was the Jeopardy! game show that first drew attention to Watson, the artificial intelligence supercomputer that beat some of the game’s top players in 2011. To achieve these wins, researchers fed thousands of information points into the machine, allowing it to use natural language to search and retrieve relevant information. Though scoring a Jeopardy! championship was an amusing challenge for IBM researchers, their ultimate goal for Watson was far more ambitious, as underscored by the company’s announcement on January 9th.

Said Michael Rhodin, Senior Vice President, IBM Watson Group, "IBM has transformed Watson from a quiz-show winner into a commercial cognitive computing breakthrough that is helping businesses engage customers, healthcare organizations personalize patient care, and entrepreneurs build businesses.”

Big Bucks, Big Bang
IBM plans to invest $1 billion in the Watson Group, including $100 million in venture capital to support an ecosystem of entrepreneurs developing Watson-powered apps. By year-end, the division anticipates having a staff of 2,000 at its new headquarters in New York City’s “Silicon Alley” technology hub.

The Watson Group will focus on research, development, and commercialization of cloud-based cognitive computing services, software, and apps based on the Watson platform. This new class of tools and technologies is capable of analyzing, improving by learning, and discovering answers and insights to complex questions from massive amounts of disparate data.

”These new cognitive computing innovations are designed to augment users’ knowledge, be it the researcher exploring genetic data to create new therapies or a business executive who needs evidence-based insights to make a crucial decision,” said Rhodin.

Dynamic Support for Medical Decisions
In the few years since the Jeopardy! game, IBM has been working hard to harness Watson’s big data power in healthcare and research medicine. One result of this effort is WatsonPaths, a medical app unveiled last November, which IBM developed in collaboration with the Cleveland Clinic Lerner College of Medicine of Case Western Reserve University. WatsonPaths helps physicians and medical students learn how to make more informed and accurate diagnostic decisions, pulling from tens of thousands of reference materials, clinical guidelines, and medical journals in real-time. When a student or physician asks WatsonPaths a question about a hard-to-diagnose patient, Watson pulls from the data to refine diagnoses and recommend treatment options. WatsonPaths provides a map of medical evidence that the physician can drill into to decide if certain chains of evidence are more important, provide additional insights and information, and weigh which paths of inferences lead to the strongest conclusions.

As medical experts and physicians interact with WatsonPaths, the system uses machine-learning to improve and scale the medical data and get “smarter.”

A Game Changer for Pharmaceutical R&D
Medical experts and clinical trial design experts at The CECON Group will be keeping an eye on one of the new Watson services that IBM announced last week. It’s called IBM Watson Discovery Advisor, and it aims to revolutionize how industries such as pharmaceuticals and publishing conduct research.

It takes 8.5 years on average for a pharmaceutical treatment to go from initial research stage into practice, according to the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America. IBM Watson Discovery Advisor will help pharmaceutical companies do more with their R&D investments while empowering research teams to accomplish more in far less time. According to an IBM press release, “The Discovery Advisor is designed to reduce the time researchers need to formulate conclusions that can advance their work, from months to days and days to just hours.”


While they don’t yet have a Watson supercomputer, the experts and consultants at The CECON Group are continually updating their knowledge base in their respective fields of pharmaceutical clinical trials, biotechnology, medical devices, regulatory compliance, and information technology—to bring you the most current and in-depth information and help you move your projects forward.





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