IBM and Nuance to bring IBM’s “Watson” analytics technology to personalized medicine arena

It’s not directly related to pharmaceutical or biotech research and development aspects of personalized medicine, but since Watson made such a news splash by whomping contestant on the game show “Jeopardy,” we just couldn’t resist sharing the news

Jeffrey Bouley
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BURLINGTON, Mass. and ARMONK, N.Y.—Feb. 17 saw Nuance Communications Inc. and IBM announced a research agreement to explore, develop and commercialize the Watson computing system's advanced analytics capabilities in the healthcare industry. And yes, it's the same Watson, more or less, that appeared on the game show "Jeopardy" to soundly defeat two top-notch champions of the show.

Personalized medicine is the arena that Nuance and IBM are eyeing, and this research and technology initiative will combine IBM's deep question answering, natural language processing and machine learning capabilities with Nuance's speech recognition and clinical language understanding solutions. Unlike several other recent IBM forays into the healthcare and pharmaceutical worlds on which ddn has reported over the past couple years, this effort isn't aimed at discovery and development-oriented endeavors—though it wouldn't surprise us much if IBM has such work in mind for the future. For now, though, the Nuance-IBM collaboration is aimed at the diagnosis and treatment of patients, and the two companies expect the first commercial offerings from the collaboration to be available in 18 to 24 months.

Additionally, Columbia University Medical Center and the University of Maryland School of Medicine are contributing their medical expertise and research to the collaborative effort. For example, physicians at Columbia University are helping identify critical issues in the practice of medicine where the Watson technology may be able to contribute, and physicians at the University of Maryland are working to identify the best way that a technology like Watson could interact with medical practitioners to provide the maximum assistance.

"Combining our analytics expertise with the experience and technology of Nuance, we can transform the way that healthcare professionals accomplish everyday tasks by enabling them to work smarter and more efficiently," says Dr. John E. Kelly III, senior vice president and director of IBM Research. "This initiative demonstrates how we plan to apply Watson's capabilities into new areas, such as healthcare with Nuance."

An example of the utility of such capabilities is that a physician could use Watson's analytics technology, in conjunction with Nuance's voice and clinical language understanding solutions, to rapidly consider all the related texts, reference materials, prior cases and latest knowledge in journals and medical literature as he or she makes a diagnosis and determines the right treatment plan for a specific patient.

Jeffrey Bouley

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