IBM's Watson Wants to Examine Your DNA

IBM's Watson Wants to Examine Your DNA

With the help of Pathway Genomics, consumers might one day be able to "Ask Watson" for insights into their health.

How much exercise should I get today? How much coffee can I drink on Monday? These are questions you might ask yourself, not really expecting an actual response, but if IBM has its way, its Watson supercomputer will soon be able to supply the answers.

IBM's Watson Group today announced an undisclosed investment in Pathway Genomics to create the first cognitive consumer app based on a user's genetic makeup.

Citing research on genomic medicine, IBM said the bioinformatics market is expected to grow to $12.86 billion by 2020. Few consumers, however, have access to or can benefit from personalized wellness-related recommendations tailored to their individual needs. Which is where IBM and Pathway Genomics come in.

By leveraging the natural language processing and cognitive capabilities of Watson, consumers will be able to "Ask Watson" for insights, based on their own genes, wearable data, and other wellness information, like emotional, physical, and social well being.

"The medical industry is undergoing a dramatic and systemic change, putting the consumer more in charge of their own health care," Michael Nova, chief medical officer at Pathway Genomics and member of the Watson Advisory Board, said in a statement. "Giving the consumers access to a powerful tool built upon cognitive learning and Watson will make the change even more transformative."

The new mobile Pathway Panorama app uses Watson's cognitive intellect to evaluate millions of pages of healthcare data in seconds, and then combine it with details about the individual's lifestyle and biomarker data to provide personal recommendations about how to live a healthier life.

Panorama will also routinely monitor the user's health and wellness information and notify them when new, relevant instructions are available.

"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," said Stephen Gold, IBM Watson group vice president.

A consumer can ask the app questions based on DNA - like the aforementioned exercise and coffee queries.

"Cognitive computing solutions based on Watson's transformative technology will help define how consumers and businesses alike make better informed decisions, delivering better outcomes," Gold said.

In January, IBM promised $1 billion for development and research within the Watson Group, which focuses on bringing Watson-powered, cloud-based apps and services to the public.

That includes $100 million for venture investments to support IBM's ecosystem of startups and businesses building cognitive apps made with Watson.

IBM declined to reveal the exact amount it has spent on Pathway Genomics; a spokeswoman confirmed that the company is a minority investor.


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