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Pfizer teams up with IBM Watson Health in immuno-oncology

Published on 02/12/16 at 03:03pm

Pfizer and IBM Watson Health have announced a joint venture to accelerate research in immuno-oncology. Pfizer will use IBM’s Watson artificial intelligence system to analyse massive amounts of data, from millions of laboratory and data reports, combined with medical literature to seek new drug targets.

Pfizer takes the lead as one of the first organisation to use Watson for drug discovery and will be the first to customise the cloud-based cognitive tool. Pfizer hopes that this will bear fruit in the increasingly competitive immunotherapy field. Immunotherapies modify the patient’s immune system to be able to detect and destroy cancer cells.

Oncology researchers at Pfizer will use the increased ability to study massive loads of data to analyse and test hypothesis related to developing new treatments. Pfizer released that it had received confirmation from data that suggested a drug it was already developing was an effective combination treatment, effectively providing reassurance before heading into trials.

"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."

The sheer volume of data that is now available to researchers points towards the promise of using artificial intelligence. The platform has received more than 25 million abstracts, more than one million full-text journal articles and four million patents. The program can also be updated regularly with newly emerging data. This compares with a researcher who is able to read 200-300 articles in a year.

"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 at IBM Watson Health.

Ben Hargreaves

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