IBM Watson for Drug Discovery


IBM Watson for Drug Discovery is a cloud-based, cognitive platform for life sciences researchers.

The platform generates insights at a scale and speed beyond human capability, improves decision making and can help researchers uncover new connections rapidly, which may lead to new insights and scientific breakthroughs. With the cost of developing a single drug now exceeding $2.5 billion, cognitive systems can help to reduce this expenses.

IBM Watson for Drug Discovery has the ability to synthesize massive public and private datasets. Its capacity to processing natural language enables the platform to read millions of pages of unstructured data including scientific articles, patents, clinical trial data, electronic lab notes, toxicology reports and other proprietary data and understand contextual meaning.


Watson’s cognitive capabilities can eliminate bias, and detect connections and patterns that researchers may not necessarily see to generate novel hypotheses to predict potential relationships for further evaluation.

Watson for Drug Discovery has dynamic visualization to help the researches identify gene, protein, drug, and disease interactions in order to see hidden connections and identify valid relationships. The Dynamic Visualization allows researchers to explore relationships on various levels and views.

In collaboration with IBM Watson Health, scientists at the Barrow Neurological Institute identified five proteins altered in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) that have never before been linked to the disease.  Watson for Drug Discovery is also helping Pfizer make new discoveries in immune-oncology.

IBM Watson for Genomics


The Watson Genomics project aims to shorten the time it currently takes bioinformaticians to examine a patient’s unique molecular profile and identify drugs for his or her individual treatment.

A sample of tissue from the tumour is collected and then sent to Quest Diagnostics® to undergo gene sequencing to determine which genetic alterations it may have. Quest then uploads the sequenced genetic file to Watson for Genomics.

Watson takes gene sequencing data and identifies the most probable driver mutations based on that file and correlates the information with biological pathways to identify actionable drug targets. The software then presents a list of potential drugs that could be relevant in the patient’s overall treatment path. The IBM Watson may also suggest alternate therapies and clinical trials that may be appropriate for the patient. In order to do all this, Watson for Genomics draws evidence from a vast corpus of medical literature, as well as MSK’s OncoKB, a precision oncology knowledge base (from Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center).


This analysis is fundamental as every patient is different and therefore would benefit from a personalized approach. This type of genetic analysis will be relevant especially for patients with rare, aggressive, or late-stage cancer.

With Watson Genomics from Quest, treatment plans that typically take doctors weeks to develop may now be completed in minutes.

Watson for Genomics allows doctors to know more, sooner, giving them and the patients new hope.–genomics-from-quest-diagnostics

IBM Watson for Oncology


Recent discoveries have shown that every cancer is different, therefor ideally every treatment should be personalized for each patient.

In 2012, an estimated 14.1 million new cases of cancer were diagnosed worldwide. Cancer Research UK estimates that worldwide there will be 23.6 million new cases of cancer each year by 2030. That means that the number of cases is increasing and so is the data about cancer. Is really difficult for an oncologist to keep up with the new discoveries, medical research and data that is created every day.

The IBM Watson can analyse the data, since it is capable of understanding natural language, and then present to physicians the key information about patient´s records, new discoveries, relevant articles and medical advances that are applicable to a patient’s condition and cases of other people worldwide with similar cancers.


With IBM Watson for oncology is possible to create an evidence-based, patient-centric treatment. Watson has the ability to understand the patient´s medical record and apply its oncology training to each unique patient case to quickly generate a list of potential treatment options ranked by applicability—recommended, for consideration, and not recommended.

The system also gives doctors supporting evidence side by side so they can understand Watson’s rationale and quickly access the relevant articles and clinical data. This capability of Watson is also important to help doctors present to their patients the treatments available for their type of cancer.

Everyone knows how important it is to act fast when we are dealing with cancer. By reducing the amount of time that a physician spends researching information, Watson is helping to increase time for patient-physician interactions. It provides information to help communicate clearly with patients and other doctors in all treating locations, increasing the speed of the process.



The amount of information in the US healthcare system exceeds 150 exabytes – that’s enough data to fill a stack of DVDs that would reach from Earth to Mars. Remarkably, that volume continues to double every two years. Since the information available is growing exponentially the IBM Watson is going to be a much-needed help for doctors.

The cognitive system, IBM Watson, has a lot of applications as you can see in our category “IBM WATSON- GENERAL INFORMATION”. In this post, we are going to talk about its Health applications.

IBM Watson Health is the name of this branch of the Watson Project and it has many subcategories such as:

  • IBM Watson for Oncology
  • IBM Watson for Genomics
  • IBM Watson for Drug Discovery
  • IBM Watson Health Patient Engagement
  • IBM Watson Care Manager


It is important to say that IBM Watson is not meant to replace doctors. In fact, in the official website of IBM( ), the doctors are always being called health heroes and the IBM Watson Health is presented as a way of helping doctors spend less time researching information and help them making decisions.

The IBM Watson Health helps doctors quickly identify key information in a patient´s medical record, surface relevant articles, make essential connections, personalize treatment approaches and enhance patients’ chance of success.