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IBM's Watson Group invests in Pathway Genomics, eyes consumer wellness app

Consumers could soon 'Ask Watson' for health tips ranging from exercise recommendations to how much coffee they should drink.

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IBM's Watson unit has invested in Pathway Genomics, a provider genetic testing services, in order to build a consumer-facing wellness app that gleans insights from a user's DNA.

With the Pathway Panorama application, the companies plan to capitalize on Watson's natural language processing to enable users to ask the app questions and receive answers based on their individual biomarkers.

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For example, users could ask how much exercise they should do that day, how much sleep they should get or how much coffee they should drink. The app will then instantaneously reference medical journals and clinical trial data in order to make personalized recommendations based on the user's genetic and lifestyle data. 

"By tapping into IBM Watson's cognitive intellect, Pathway Genomics is allowing consumers to ask health and wellness related questions, in their own words and receive personalized and relevant responses," Stephen Gold, VP of the IBM Watson Group, said in a statement. "Cognitive computing solutions based on Watson's transformative technology will help define how consumers and businesses alike make better informed decisions, delivering better outcomes."

Financial terms of the investment were not disclosed, but Big Blue did say its funds helped propel Pathway's financing total to $80 million.

This is the third startup investment tied to IBM's cognitive computing ecosystem, following deals with Welltok and Fluid earlier this year. All three investments stem from a $100 million commitment IBM made in January to invest in applications that would benefit from Watson's cognitive analytics.

This also isn't the first time IBM has steered Watson toward genomic medicine, having announced just last month that researchers at the Cleveland Clinic plan to use Watson Genomics Analytics to help spot genetic indicators for certain cancers, allowing doctors can formulate individualized treatment plans based on the patient's DNA.

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