IBM Watson Health and Pfizer have announced a collaboration that will utilize IBM Watson for Drug Discovery to help accelerate Pfizer’s research in immuno-oncology, an approach to cancer treatment that uses the body’s immune system to help fight cancer. Pfizer is one of the first organizations worldwide to deploy Watson for Drug Discovery, and the first to customize the cloud-based cognitive tool—tapping in to Watson’s machine learning, natural language processing, and other cognitive reasoning technologies to support the identification of new drug targets, combination therapies for study, and patient selection strategies in immuno-oncology.
Immunotherapies, which modify a patient’s immune system to recognize and target cancer cells using a combination of vaccines, immunomodulators, and small/large molecules, are reshaping the field of oncology. Oncology researchers at Pfizer will use Watson for Drug Discovery to analyze massive volumes of disparate data sources, including licensed and publicly available data as well as Pfizer’s proprietary data. With this new tool, Pfizer researchers will analyze and test hypotheses to generate evidence-based insights for real-time interaction. The customized technology can also support efficient safety assessments.
Cancer is one of the leading causes of death worldwide, and is arguably one of the most complex diseases known to mankind. Many researchers believe that the future of immuno-oncology lies in combinations tailored to unique tumor characteristics, which could transform the cancer treatment paradigm and enable more oncology patients to be treated.
“Pfizer remains committed to staying at the forefront of immuno-oncology research,” said Mikael Dolsten, president, Pfizer Worldwide Research & Development. “With the incredible volume of data and literature available in this complex field, we believe that tapping into advanced technologies can help our scientific experts more rapidly identify novel combinations of immune-modulating agents. We are hopeful that by leveraging Watson’s cognitive capabilities in our drug discovery efforts, we will be able to bring promising new immuno-oncology therapeutics to patients more quickly.”
Laurie Olson, executive vice president, Strategy, Portfolio and Commercial Operations, Pfizer, said, “At Pfizer, we are entering a new frontier in data innovation in which we are investing in a range of new technologies and digital solutions to help us dynamically mine both internal and external data sources to find new connections in science, as well as help us better understand how diseases progress and how they could potentially be treated. Applying the power of cognitive computing to an area that is a core part of our DNA—discovering new medicines—is helping Pfizer to learn how we can most efficiently discover those immuno-oncology therapies that have the best chance of successful outcomes for patients.”
The newly launched Watson for Drug Discovery is a cloud-based offering that aims to help life sciences researchers discover new drug targets and alternative drug indications. The average researcher reads between 200 and 300 articles in a given year, while Watson for Drug Discovery has ingested 25 million Medline abstracts, more than 1 million full-text medical journal articles, 4 million patents and is regularly updated. Watson for Drug Discovery can be augmented with an organization’s private data such as lab reports and can help researchers look across disparate data sets to surface relationships and reveal hidden patterns through dynamic visualizations.
“We believe that the next great medical innovations will emerge as researchers and scientists find new patterns in existing bodies of knowledge. In order to do this, they need access to R&D tools that can help them efficiently navigate the opportunities and challenges presented by the explosion of data globally,” said Lauren O’Donnell, vice president of Life Sciences, IBM Watson Health. “IBM is honored to collaborate with Pfizer, and put Watson for Drug Discovery to work to support efforts in bringing life-saving immunotherapies to doctors and patients worldwide.”