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Watson Health Teams with Pfizer to Advance Immuno-Oncology Research

In recent years, immunotherapy—treatments that activate the body’s immune system to fight disease—has been touted as our most important weapon in the fight to cure cancer. Today, Watson Health announced that it is teaming up with Pfizer to support the discovery of new immunotherapy drugs.

After Watson’s public debut on Jeopardy! in 2011—which showcased the platform’s machine learning, natural language processing, and cognitive reasoning technologies—IBM put Watson to work tackling healthcare’s biggest problems. In the spring of this year, Watson Health opened its headquarters in Cambridge and began strategically partnering with international health systems, companies, and research institutions to improve processes such as clinical trial matching, genetic analysis and population health management.

In their newest initiative, IBM Watson for Drug Discovery, Watson Health and Pfizer plan to use the platform to help cancer drug researchers trawl through disparate data sources, including 31 million sources of medical literature, lab data and reports, public databases, and Pfizer’s proprietary information and data sets.

“With the incredible volume of data and literature available in this complex field, we believe that tapping into advanced technologies like IBM Watson can help our scientific experts more rapidly identify novel combinations of immune-modulating agents,” says Mikael Dolsten, President, Pfizer Worldwide Research & Development.

The hope is that Watson’s cognitive computing platform will quickly find patterns and glean insights that will enable researchers to identify new drug targets, combination therapies for study, and patient selection strategies.

“We believe that the next great medical innovations will emerge as researchers and scientists find new patterns in existing bodies of knowledge,” said Lauren O’Donnell, Vice President of Life Sciences, IBM Watson Health. “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.”

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