|29 February 2016|

USA

A pioneering new collaboration between the New York Genome Centre and IBM will create a comprehensive and open repository of genetic data to accelerate cancer research and scale access to precision medicine using cognitive insights from IBM Watson. Analysing this data alongside the medical community’s growing knowledge about cancer could help accelerate the ability of doctors to deliver personalised treatment to individual patients.

IBM and New York Genome Centre are working together to build the capacity to house the contributed data, train Watson’s cognitive computing capabilities for genomic analysis and enable the Centre’s member institutions and other research collaborators to sequence and analyse DNA and RNA from patients’ tumours.

In the first phase of the project, the two organisations will examine genetic information from 200 cancer patients to compare how different types of sequencing might impact possible treatment options — examining whole genome and whole exome sequencing as well as clinical panels currently in wide use. Sequencing and clinical data will be fed into Watson to accelerate and focus reviews of massive amounts of medical evidence to help identify existing drugs that may be candidates to target patients’ cancer-causing mutations. Clinically relevant insights will be returned to each individual patient’s physician to potentially support the physician’s treatment decisions.

Robert B. Darnell, MD, PhD, New York Genome Center’s Founding Director and CEO, said, “Our vision is to create a comprehensive cancer data repository that combines whole genome, exome, targeted panel and phenotypic data in an open platform that will empower researchers and clinicians. We believe that iterative analysis of the data and integration with our growing knowledge of cancer will allow doctors to provide better, personalized treatment.”

Whole genome sequencing can play an important role in informing cancer research and treatment.  Access to and interpretation of this type of genomic data, however, is currently limited. By combining genetic and clinical information from patients, IBM and New York Genome Centre plan to pool resources and talent while also collaborating with a variety of IBM partners and New York Genome Centre members, philanthropic partners, and New York State supporters.

“Data is quickly becoming one of the most valuable resources in the fight against cancer,” said John Kelly III, PhD, Senior Vice President, Cognitive Solutions and IBM Research. “By amassing this contributed data and applying cognitive insights to the challenge of analyzing cancer data, we believe we can soon scale access to precision medicine worldwide.”