IBM grows Baheal deal to bring Watson genomics to China

IBM Watson
The agreements with Baheal give IBM a partner with connections to 12,000 hospitals in China as it seeks to establish Watson in the local healthcare market. (IBM)

IBM and Baheal Pharmaceutical have moved quickly to expand their relationship. Weeks after IBM gave Baheal a starring role in selling its Watson for Oncology product in China, Big Blue has penned a similar deal covering its molecular data interpretation technology.

The two Watson products are part of IBM’s attempt to use its natural language computer system as the basis for targeted healthcare offerings. In the case of the genomics product, IBM is trying to help physicians by identifying mutations in sequencing data and proposing treatments tailored to these variants.

Baheal will sell the genomics product under a multiyear agreement that makes it IBM’s primary channel partner in China, the same status the earlier deal bestowed on it for the oncology product. The agreements give IBM a partner with connections to 12,000 hospitals in China as it seeks to establish Watson in the local healthcare market.

Only a fraction of those hospitals are likely to use either version of Watson in the near term. To date, Baheal has implemented the oncology product at eight hospitals. That product is designed to surface information relevant to each patient’s medical record. Given that the value of the genomics product is predicated on having sequencing data, the potential user base may be smaller than for the oncology offering. 

Qingdao, China-based Baheal landed the deals on the back of an earlier relationship between IBM and its subsidiary Bodhi Healthcare. Bodhi worked with IBM to create a private cloud through which hospitals exchange information.

Baheal provides Bodhi’s platform alongside Watson and two other healthcare services, Easy Revisit and Palm Medical Service. The two other services cover post-diagnosis management and doctor training.

Baheal sees its latest offering addressing an unmet need in Chinese healthcare.

“Despite the promise of precision medicine, data-driven challenges make it difficult for oncologists to bring genomic advances to their patients,” Baheal Chairman Gang Fu said in a statement. “We believe Watson will help accelerate this growing field so that research advances can be accessed for patient benefit more quickly.