IBM's Watson Health, Illumina team up on genomics sequencing, cancer research

The general idea of the partnership is to cut the expense and time required for cancer researchers to interpret genetic variants across 170 genes.

IBM said its Watson Health unit has partnered with Illumina, a company that offers genome data sequencing tools, to integrate and standardize interpretation for cancer research.

Under the partnership, Watson Genomics will be integrated into Illumina's BaseSpace and Tumor Sequencing Process. Specifically, Watson Genomics will be available to interpret data produced by Illumina's TruSight Tumor 170, which is a solid tumor profiling panel. The system aims to detect variants across 170 genes and looks at both RNA and DNA.

Previously: Playing House: How IBM's Watson is helping doctors diagnose the most rare and elusive illnesses | AI, MD: How artificial intelligence is changing the way illness is diagnosed and treated

The integration covers research not diagnostic procedures.

Watson Genomics, which ingests 10,000 scientific articles and 100 clinical trials a month, will read files from TruSight Tumor 170 and annotate each genetic alteration with professional guidelines, medical literature, clinical trials and other data to create a report for researchers. Typically, the process takes more than a week to finish.

The integration will be available in early 2017 and Watson Genomics will be an option bundled with Illumina kits.

Overall, IBM and Illumina are hoping to keep up with advances in genome sequencing. The companies said the bottleneck in research has been the time and expense interpreting the data.

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