IBM has unveiled Watson for Genomics. IBM Watson is a technology platform that uses natural language processing and machine learning to reveal insights from large amounts of unstructured data. Watson will help scientists using genomic analysis to figure out the cause of and potential cure for different strains of cancer.
Watson’s brain power, which can understand questions in natural language and not just the computer language of ones and zeros, could significantly accelerate cancer treatment. Finding the appropriate treatment for a specific patient means sequencing his or her genome, finding mutations and then getting a team of seasoned doctors in a room to decide the best options, Watson can do it in less than three minutes.
The Genomics will take on the data-intensive task of searching through sequenced DNA of patients from the Veteran Affairs (VA) Department , finding mutations and scanning medical literature to pinpoint the therapeutic treatments that would work best. The program promises to identify customised regimens for 10,000 US veterans during the next two years – that is almost 30 times more patients that would receive appropriate treatment than if the team did not use Watson.
On the current method of finding treatment, Dr. Michael Kelly, National Program Director for Oncology at the VA said, “It is time-intensive and it is not scalable. One human probably could not do it, it takes a panel.”
Oncologists will feed Watson a sequence of DNA along with a list of the changes that are thought to cause the cancer, known as de-identified genetic alteration files. The computer will pump out a report of possible mutations as well as potential treatments after scanning contemporary medical literature and data.
Swiftly analysing a genome sequence might seem impressive, but, that is only one side of the coin. The other half of the job is filtering out things that would not be clinically valuable for doctors like Dr. Kelly, said Stephen Harvey, Vice President of Watson Health.