Pfizer to use IBM's cloud-based cognitive tool to discover new immuno-oncology treatment options

Pfizer entered a partnership with IBM Watson Health that will use the latter's cloud-based cognitive tool Watson for Drug Discovery to help accelerate research in immuno-oncology, the companies announced Thursday. Mikael Dolsten, Pfizer's president of worldwide R&D, remarked that "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."

Dolsten explained that Pfizer decided to collaborate with IBM after a possible treatment target emerged during a recent pilot programme. The executive noted that research information fed into Watson for Drug Discovery suggested a "very strong combination outcome" for two drugs as a possible cancer treatment, validating a similar finding from Pfizer's own work. "We're now trying to validate it in animals," Dolsten added.

For additional information on pharma's use of Big Data, learn more at Powering Commercial Effectiveness Through Big Data and Analytics.

Under the deal, of which financial terms were not disclosed, Pfizer will customise Watson for Drug Discovery "to support the identification of new drug targets, combination therapies for study and patient selection strategies in immuno-oncology." The companies added that Pfizer's oncology researchers will use Watson for Drug Discovery to analyse huge volumes of data sources, including licensed and publicly available data, as well as the drugmaker's proprietary data. The scientists will use the tool to "test hypotheses to generate evidence-based insights for real-time interaction," while also assessing safety.

IBM said its newly launched cloud-based offering, which aims to help researchers discover new drug targets and alternative drug indications, has "ingested 25 million Medline abstracts, more than 1 million full-text medical journal articles, 4 million patents and is regularly updated." Lauren O'Donnell, vice president of life sciences at IBM Watson Health, suggested 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." 

For related analysis, read Spotlight On Interview: IBM, Pfizer discuss plans to leverage supercomputing to tackle immuno-oncology.

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