IBM targets big data with acquisition, new research

IBM has made news on the big data front twice this week, first with Wednesday's acquisition of Pittsburgh-based Vivisimo, and today with an announcement from SUNY Buffalo about multiple sclerosis research.

Vivisimo develops federated discovery and navigation software meant to enable organizations to access and analyze big data enterprise-wide. With some 2.5 quintillion bytes of data created every day, IBM says the deal – terms of which were not disclosed – will help accelerate its analytics initiatives, helping organizations such as healthcare providers, government agencies and telecommunications companies navigate and analyze the full variety, velocity and volume of structured and unstructured data.

"Navigating big data to uncover the right information is a key challenge for all industries," says Arvind Krishna, general manager, Information Management, IBM Software Group, in a statement. "The winners in the era of big data will be those who unlock their information assets to drive innovation, make real-time decisions, and gain actionable insights to be more competitive."

"As part of IBM, we can bring clients the quickest and most accurate access to information necessary to drive growth initiatives," added Vivisimo CEO John Kealey.

[See also: 6 keys to making better use of your data .]

On Thursday, IBM announced that researchers at the State University of New York (SUNY) at Buffalo are using its analytics technology to study more than 2,000 genetic and environmental factors that may contribute to multiple sclerosis (MS) symptoms.

The initiative finds scientists using IBM's technology to develop algorithms for large genomic datasets to uncover critical factors that speed up disease progression in MS patients. Insights gained from that research will eventually be shared with physicians to help them tailor individual treatments to slow brain injury, physical disability and cognitive impairments caused by MS.

Affecting approximately 400,000 people in the United States and some 2.1 million people worldwide, MS is a chronic neurological disease for which there is no cure. It is believed to be caused by a combination of genetic, environmental, infectious and autoimmune factors, making treatment difficult.

SUNY Buffalo researchers will explore clinical and patient data to find hidden trends among MS patients by looking at factors such as gender, geography, ethnicity, diet, exercise, sun exposure and living and working conditions, IBM officials say. All that data – including medical records, lab results, MRI scans and patient surveys – arrive in various formats and sizes, requiring researchers to spend days making it manageable before they can analyze it.

[See also: IBM acquires Initiate Systems, bolsters role in healthcare IT.]