IBM Launches "Watson Discovery Advisor" to Hasten Breakthroughs in Scientific and Medical Research


On August 27, 2014 IBM launched Watson Discovery Advisor, a computer system that could quickly identify patterns in massive amounts of data, with the expectation that this system would hasten breakthroughs in science and medical research. The computer system, which IBM made available through the cloud, understood chemical compound interaction and human language, and could visually map out connections in data. The system used  a number of computational techniques to deliver its results, including natural language processing, machine learning and hypothesis generation, in which a hypothesis is created and evaluated by a number of different analysis techniques. Baylor College of Medicine used the service to analyze 23 million abstracts of medical papers in order to find more information on the p53 tumor protein, in search of more information on how to turn it on or off. From these results, Baylor researchers identified six potential proteins to target for new research. Using traditional methods it typically took researchers about a year to find a single potentially useful target protein, IBM said.

According to an article by Reuters published in The New York Times,

"Some researchers and scientists have already been using Watson Discovery Advisor to sift through the sludge of scientific papers published daily.

"Johnson & Johnson is teaching the system to read and understand trial outcomes published in journals to speed up studies of effectiveness of drugs.

"Sanofi, a French pharmaceutical company is working with Watson to identify alternate uses for existing drugs.

" 'On average, a scientist might read between one and five research papers on a good day,' said Dr. Olivier Lichtarge, investigator and professor of molecular and human genetics, biochemistry and molecular biology at Baylor College of Medicine.

"He used Watson to automatically analyze 70,000 articles on a particular protein, a process which could have taken him nearly 38 years.

“ 'Watson has demonstrated the potential to accelerate the rate and the quality of breakthrough discoveries,' he said."

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