IBM Watson Health, Illumina partner to expand access to genomic data

IBM Watson Health and Illumina announced Monday a partnership that will integrate Watson for Genomics into the latter's BaseSpace Sequence Hub and tumour sequencing process to expand access to genomic data, thereby helping to "standardise and simplify...interpretation." Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Deborah DiSanzo, general manager at IBM Watson Health, remarked that "this partnership lays the groundwork for more systematic study of the impact of genomics in oncology." Meanwhile, Francis deSouza, CEO of Illumina, noted that "to enable precision cancer medicine on a large scale, we need new tools to overcome the data barriers of genomic research," adding that "with a comprehensive assay of Illumina and the power of Watson, we hope to deliver a rapid turnaround of the genomic alteration results."

Under the partnership, researchers will have access to information to help interpret data produced by Illumina's recently launched TruSight Tumor 170, which is "a solid tumour profiling panel designed to detect a comprehensive set of variants across 170 genes," the companies said. "In a matter of minutes, Watson for Genomics will read the genetic alteration files produced by TruSight Tumor 170, comb professional guidelines, medical literature, clinical trials compendia and other sources of knowledge to provide information for each genomic alteration, and produce a report for use by researchers -- a process that typically takes scientists more than one week to complete," the parties added.

Steve Harvey, vice president of Watson Health, noted that while 2 million people in the US could likely benefit from having their tumour DNA sequenced, less than 10 percent do so. Harvey added that "Illumina's ability to bundle the Watson report along with the TruSeq 170 enables a cancer institute or a diagnostic lab to get up and running much quicker." The Watson for Genomics software will be available to support Illumina's TruSight Tumor 170 assay early this year.

Last October, IBM Watson Health and Quest Diagnostics announced the US launch of a service called IBM Watson Genomics from Quest Diagnostics, which the companies said "helps advance precision medicine by combining cognitive computing with genomic tumour sequencing."


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