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Icons of Progress

Information-Based Medicine

IBM100 Information-Based Medicine iconic mark

In an increasingly data-driven world, IBM is at the leading edge, helping the medical field use data and analytics to inform medical decisions, predict outcomes and improve the quality of healthcare around the world.

From 2006 to 2008, IBM worked with EuResist, a pharmacogenomics project that integrates viral genomics with clinical data to help predict responses to anti-HIV treatment. The goal was to create an integrated cross-European system for clinical management of antiretroviral drug resistance. This helps physicians predict responses to antiretroviral treatment in HIV patients, so they can better prescribe the drugs and drug combinations for any given HIV genetic variant.

Researchers behind the European Union-funded project have developed new mathematical prediction models that can not only take into account the patient’s own history, but can also tap into the wealth of information that EuResist researchers have amassed. Physicians can compare patient details against 33,000 previous cases and treatment data to help choose a therapy with a higher probability of success and reduce incidents of treatment-related toxicity through increasingly accurate patient models. Ultimately, a massive European integrated data set will be created, linking some of the largest existing resistance databases.

In 2004, IBM launched the World Community Grid, a philanthropic project with a mission to create the largest public computing platform to benefit humanity. The World Community Grid taps into the unused computing power of more than 1.8 million working personal computers belonging to individuals, businesses and non-profits to create a system with more computational strength than the world’s largest supercomputers. The grid is available only to public and not-for-profit organizations to use in humanitarian research that might otherwise not be completed due to the high cost of the computer infrastructure required in the absence of a public grid. As part of the World Community Grid’s objective to advancing human welfare, results are in the public domain and made public to the global research community. [Read more about this Icon of Progress]

IBM has donated hardware, software, technical services and expertise to help build the infrastructure for the grid and provides hosting, maintenance and support.

The World Community Grid has been deployed on a number of major projects, including the Human Proteome Folding Project, the Fight AIDS@Home project and the Help Defeat Cancer project. The grid also offers future potential applications including searching for cures to human diseases, fighting world hunger and addressing critical environmental issues.

Most recently, IBM formed a collaboration with Nuance Communications, Inc., to combine IBM ® DeepQA, natural language processing and machine learning capabilities with Nuance’s speech recognition and Clinical Language Understanding (CLU) solutions to help in the diagnosis and treatment of patients by providing hospitals, physicians and payers access to critical and timely information. Columbia University Medical Center and the University of Maryland School of Medicine are also part of the collaborative effort.

IBM’s Watson computer also has strong potential to help in the medical field. Launched in February 2011 on the US quiz show Jeopardy!, Watson’s Deep QA analytic capabilities enabled the system to compete and win against reigning Jeopardy! champions over a three-night match. [Read more about this Icon of Progress]

Those same abilities to analyze the meaning and context of human language, combined with an ability to rapidly process information and find precise answers could eventually help doctors improve diagnostic accuracy, efficiency and patient safety

Watson could eventually become a valuable tool to help physicians and nurses unlock important knowledge and facts buried within huge volumes of information. It could also help them find answers they may not have considered, and give them a way to validate their own ideas or hypotheses. Watson also holds the potential to help doctors provide personalized treatment options tailored to individual patient needs.

IBM’s healthcare initiative—centered in the IBM Research division—continues to focus on healthcare transformation, applying cutting-edge science and technology to help doctors, nurses and insurance providers create a more systematic approach to delivering high-quality, evidence-based care to patients. As part of this initiative, IBM has hired several medical doctors to work alongside its scientists.

With funding of US$100 million over three years, the project draws upon IBM’s leadership in areas such as systems and information integration, service research, cloud computing, analytics and emerging scientific areas—such as nanomedicine and computational biology—to drive innovations that can empower medical staff to focus their entire efforts on patient care.


Selected team members who contributed to this Icon of Progress:

  • Yardena Peres Manager, IT for Healthcare and Life Science (EuResist)
  • Carmel Kent Research Scientist, IT for Healthcare and Life Science (EuResist)
  • Michal Rosen-Zvi Manager, Machine Learning and Data Mining Group (EuResist)
  • Hani Neuvirth-Telem Research Scientist, Machine Learning and Data Mining Group (EuResist)
  • Ehud Aharoni Research Scientist, Machine Learning and Data Mining Group (EuResist)
  • Joseph Jasinski IBM Distinguished Engineer, Research Staff (EuResist)
  • Viktors Berstis IBM Master Inventor, Technical Lead, Architect, Lead Scientist, World Community Grid
  • David Ferrucci Lead Scientist, Watson