IBM brings Watson to Boston Children's Hospital for rare pediatric disease diagnosis

IBM ($IBM) is teaming up with Boston Children's Hospital to use its Watson system for rare pediatric disease diagnosis and treatment, deepening its dive into healthcare as it signs on key biopharma partners to Watson and gets the ball rolling at its new global cloud computing hub in Cambridge, MA.

IBM and Boston Children's Hospital will initially focus on a rare genetic kidney disease, training Watson to identify unexplained signs and symptoms by feeding the device medical literature, information about rare mutations and patients' genomic sequencing data. Watson will then match genetic mutations to the disease, revealing findings that could help doctors come up with treatment options for patients, the pair said in a statement.

The system could offer an advantage over current diagnostics, as sequencing results can be labor intensive and don't always get to the root of the problem. Watson would quickly screen the data and identify genetic aberrations responsible for an underlying condition, the company said in a statement, potentially improving outcomes for patients. After its rare kidney disease project, Boston Children's Hospital plans to use Watson for undiagnosed neurological disorders and other disease areas.

"Rare disease diagnosis is a fitting application for cognitive technology that can assimilate different types and sources of data to help doctors solve medical mysteries. For the kids and their families suffering without a diagnosis, our goal is to team with the world's leading experts to create a cognitive tool that will make it easier for doctors to find the needle in the haystack, uncovering all relevant medical advances to support effective care for the child," Deborah DiSanzo, GM of IBM Watson Health, said in a statement.

This is not the first time IBM and Boston Children's Hospital have joined forces. The pair is also building an online platform, dubbed OPENPediatrics, which allows healthcare professionals to access and exchange information about caring for sick children. In September, IBM and Boston Children's Hospital announced that they would use Watson to build out the system.

Meanwhile, IBM is keeping busy on the healthcare front, inking new deals for its Watson system to generate some much-needed growth. In May, the Armonk, NY-based company said it would lend Watson to electronic health record (EHR) software provider Epic, Mayo Clinic and 14 cancer institutes to analyze EHRs and identify cancer-causing mutations. IBM also counts partnerships with med tech giant Medtronic ($MDT), Johnson & Johnson ($JNJ) and Apple ($AAPL) to its name, helping the company bulk up in the industry.

IBM is also focusing on building up its new business, IBM Watson Health, which the company launched earlier this year. In September, IBM cut the ribbon on its new global HQ for the unit in Cambridge, MA, centering the business in the heart of biopharma R&D.

- read the statement

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