IBM's Watson deepens engagement with Apple, adds new pharma and hospital customers

IBM Watson Health's Kendall Square, Cambridge location

IBM's ($IBM) Jeopardy-winning Watson had a busy day thanks to the opening of the new IBM Watson Health global HQ in Cambridge, MA. As is often the case, the ribbon cutting was accompanied by a plethora of newly announced customers and boasts about new capabilities.

For IBM is counting on Watson to help it produce company-wide revenue growth, something it hasn't achieved in the last 13 quarters, and Big Data-obsessed healthcare is the biggest source of current and future applications. Newly hired Deborah DiSanzo will lead the effort as the unit's general manager. She was the CEO of Philips Healthcare.

The company's Watson Health unit deepened its partnership with Apple's ($AAPL) HealthKit and ResearchKit data collection platforms, and added 5 partners, including Columbia Medical Center and pharma bigwig Teva ($TEVA)--another step toward IBM's goal to use the computer to deploy Big Data for the improvement of patient care and drug discovery.

The tech giant introduced the IBM Watson Care Manager, which integrates the patient engagement tools of recently acquired Phytel, and Apple's HealthKit and ResearchKit, so that clinical and individual data can be analyzed for insights that nurses and other healthcare providers can use for patient care and monitoring.

It aims to automate and improve data capture, such as the weight and physical activity of discharged chronic heart failure patients. Such data is then relayed back to Watson via the cloud, enabling constant, iterative improvements in best practices, based on the ever-expanding pool of information, IBM says.

And Sage Bionetworks announced that it aims to make the IBM Watson Health Cloud its main platform for storing and analyzing the data collected from ResearchKit-enabled smartphone apps. It is using ResearchKit to study breast cancer and Parkinson's disease.

Meanwhile, Columbia University Medical Center will test Watson's genomic analysis capabilities in the hopes of turning DNA-based insights into improved personalized (or "precision") medicine. The institution's cancer center becomes the 16th one to adopt so-called Watson Genomic Analysis.

Boston Children's Hospital is also adopting Watson Genomic Analysis in hopes of improving treatment of rare pediatric diseases. It also aims to deploy Watsons' image analysis skills (strengthened by the recent $1 billion deal for Merge) to improve diagnosis of pediatric heart conditions, and use analytics to predict ventilator patient decline in advance. Others may benefit from the planned expansion of the hospitals' OPENPediatrics initiative.

Two other partners demonstrate Watson's pharma industry ambitions. Teva is adopting the IBM Watson Health Cloud, and partnering with IBM on research projects in the hopes of finding new therapeutics.

The company says Watson will help it fulfill new and unmet patient needs, and work towards solving perennial industry problems like prescription drug abuse and patient noncompliance with dosing instructions.

Finally, Irish contract research organization Icon ($ICLR) announced it is adopting the Watson Clinical Trial Matching platform. It helps doctors find clinical trials that their patients are eligible for, in turn accelerating research and reducing recruitment costs for trial sponsors like CROs and Big Pharma.

IBM also introduced the Watson Health Cloud for Life Sciences Compliance to help companies meet regulatory requirements when working with Big Data and inside the cloud.

But as FierceBiotech points out, IBM's Watson may be the most famous Big Data tool thanks to its Jeopardy prowess, but it is hardly alone. Google ($GOOG) is also developing cloud computing tools for genomic analysis and Microsoft ($MSFT) is in the picture too.

Potential IBM/Watson partners may decide to enter themselves. Biogen ($BIIB) recently revealed that it aims to generate patient stratification risk reports based on 1.6 billion records of genomic data.

- here's FierceBiotech's take

- read the IBM release | here's another one
- here's more from Teva | more from Icon