Drugmaker UCB taps IBM for digital medicine effort

UCB has set its sights beyond drugs to the world of data analytics in healthcare. The Belgian biopharma group has partnered with IBM ($IBM) to provide physicians with a predictive tool for use in treating epileptic patients, and the company has worked on expanding its offerings after patents expired on its epilepsy drug Keppra.

Brussels-based UCB is among the world's top providers of drugs for epilepsy, with brands such as Vimpat and Keppra. Yet the company has taken an interest in the use of data analytics to provide doctors with computational systems to support treatment of the disease, which can lead to seizures and other neurological difficulties.

IBM has scored multiple healthcare partners with the Watson supercomputer and other technologies supporting the analysis of massive data sets from patients and published research. Prior to IBM, UCB has worked with digital health player PatientsLikeMe on an online community for epilepsy patients. And the drugmaker seeks other IT partners to advance epilepsy care.

"UCB focuses on the creation of innovative networks because we recognize that delivering best-in-class solutions to patients requires collaboration with a diverse group of internal and external experts," Dr. Iris Low-Friedrich, UCB's chief medical officer, said in a statement.

Yet the pharma business pays the bills for UCB. Sales of Keppra have fallen off because of generic competition to the faded blockbuster epilepsy drug in the U.S. and Europe, and the company is counting on growing sales of Vimpat and other therapies.

- here's the IBM/UCB release
- see PMLive's coverage