IBM Watson, Illumina partner to deliver precision oncology on a large scale

The alliance combines the power of Illumina's genome sequencing with IBM Watson's genomic analysis.
By Bernie Monegain
10:06 AM

IBM will integrate its cognitive computing platform Watson for Genomics into San Francisco-based biotech company Illumina's tumor sequencing technology. Executives announced what they called a "groundbreaking partnership" Jan. 9 at the JP Morgan Healthcare Conference in San Francisco.

The alliance will expand access to genome data interpretation, they said, the better and quicker to close the expensive and time-consuming gap of interpreting genomic data – and make precision medicine to treat cancer a reality.

"This partnership lays the groundwork for more systematic study of the impact of genomics in oncology," said Deborah DiSanzo, general manager, IBM Watson Health, in a statement. "Together we are poised to help researchers realize the potential of precision oncology by expanding access to valuable genome sequencing from Illumina and reliable, standardized genomic interpretation from Watson."

Illumina, which has been called the Google of genetic testing, is reputed to generate 90 percent of all DNA sequence data.

"To enable precision cancer medicine on a large scale, we need new tools to overcome the data barriers of genomic research," John Leite, vice president of oncology at Illumina, said in a statement. "With a comprehensive assay of Illumina and the power of Watson, we hope to deliver a rapid turnaround of the genomic alteration results."

By integrating Watson for Genomics into Illumina's BaseSpace, its cloud-based genomics computing hub for tumor sequencing, the two companies expect to standardize and simplify genomic data interpretation.

[Also: IBM Watson, Quest Diagnostics, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, MIT, Harvard combine forces for massive oncology, precision medicine initiative]

Researchers who use Illumina's cancer genome sequencing panel now will have rapid access to information to help interpret the broad array of variant data produced by Illumina's TruSight Tumor 170. TruSight is solid tumor profiling panel designed to detect a comprehensive set of variants across 170 genes.

A growing body of research shows that analyzing the genomic basis of a tumor can be important for understanding the disease, IBM and Illumina execs point out. Watson is expected to help provide sophisticated analysis to help identify the mutations responsible for cancer growth and correlate that information with potential standard and experimental treatment options.

Twitter: @Bernie_HITN
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