TORONTO, ON – 12 October, 2016: IBM (NYSE: IBM) Watson Health today announced that the Ontario Brain Institute (OBI) and the Movement Disorders Clinic (MDC) at Toronto’s University Health Network (UHN) will embark on Canada’s first ever Parkinson’s disease research project using the recently launched IBM Watson for Drug Discovery.

MDC researchers, along with members of the Informatics and Analytics team at OBI, will use Watson to accelerate the drug discovery process – transforming how researchers discover new drugs, and determine which drugs could potentially be repurposed in the fight against Parkinson’s disease – far more rapidly than by traditional methods.

Drawing from its body of nearly 31 million sources of relevant literature, IBM’s cloud-based cognitive enterprise solution analyzes scientific knowledge and data using machine learning and natural language processing.

According to the Parkinson’s Disease Foundation, an estimated seven to 10 million people globally are living with Parkinson's disease1, and it is the second most common neurodegenerative disorder in Canada, after Alzheimer’s disease.2

Currently, bringing a drug to market takes nearly 10 years and approximately $2.6 billion. Beyond that, 88 percent of new drugs fail in Phase I because of a lack of efficacy and safety.3

“Drug researchers are challenged by the sheer volume and pace of emerging data”, said Lauren O’Donnell, Vice President, IBM Watson Health Life Sciences. “Watson for Drug Discovery empowers researchers with cognitive tools that will help to speed drug discovery, and increase the likelihood of bringing effective therapies to patients more rapidly. “

”This partnership signals the beginning of a new era for neuroscience where researchers can work with data at an unprecedented level of sophistication and speed,” said Tom Mikkelsen, president and scientific director of the Ontario Brain Institute. “We are excited by the impact this could have on people living with Parkinson’s disease.”

“Ontario is committed to putting patients at the centre of our health care system, and provides funding to institutions that help make us a world leader in brain research and care,” said Dr. Eric Hoskins, Minister of Health and Long-Term Care. “This collaboration will result in research that could greatly improve the lives of people living with Parkinson's disease.”

“Through this exceptional collaboration we will gain better insight into Parkinson’s disease and speed up drug discoveries. I look forward to the results of this outstanding research for this hopeful news directly impacts all patients living with this disease as well as their families,” said Reza Moridi, Minister of Research, Innovation and Science.

In Canada, one in three individuals – over 11 million people – will face a psychiatric disease, a neurological disorder or a brain or spinal cord injury at some point in their lives4 and about 25 people are diagnosed with Parkinson’s each day5, according to the Ontario Brain Institute. In Ontario alone, an estimated 285,000 people currently suffer from some form of neurodegenerative disorder, such as Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS).6

Dr. Lorraine Kalia, a movement disorders neurologist and neuroscientist at the Krembil Neuroscience Centre at UHN, says cognitive technology like IBM Watson has the potential to make discoveries that can directly impact the health of Canadians. “The platform gives us the ability to look at connections that researchers might not have found without dedicating weeks or months of time,” said Dr. Kalia. “This includes identifying compounds that we have not previously considered investigating for the treatment of Parkinson’s disease.”

About IBM Watson Health

Watson is the first commercially available cognitive computing capability representing a new era in computing. The system, delivered through the cloud, analyzes high volumes of data, understands complex questions posed in natural language, and proposes evidence-based answers. Watson continuously learns, gaining in value and knowledge over time, from previous interactions. In April 2015, the company launched IBM Watson Health and the Watson Health Cloud platform. The new unit will help improve the ability of doctors, researchers and insurers to innovate by surfacing insights from the massive amount of personal health data being created and shared daily. The Watson Health Cloud can mask individual identities and allow this information to be shared and combined with a dynamic and constantly growing aggregated view of clinical, research and social health data. For more information on IBM Watson, visit: For more information on IBM Watson Health, visit:

About IBM
IBM is one of Canada’s top ten private R&D investors, and in 2015 contributed more than $477 million to Canadian research activities. IBM has a unique approach to collaboration that provides academic researchers, small and large business, start-ups and developers with business strategies and computing tools they need to innovate. Areas of focus include health, agile computing, water, energy, cities, mining, advanced manufacturing, digital media and cybersecurity. IBM and its partners have in the past three years helped create more than 250 high-value jobs and launch more than three dozen new businesses. Please visit

About Ontario Brain Institute
The Ontario Brain Institute is a provincially‐funded, not‐for‐profit research centre seeking to maximize the impact of neuroscience and establish Ontario as a world leader in brain research, commercialization and care. Convergent partnerships are created between researchers, clinicians, industry, patients, and their advocates to foster discovery and deliver innovative products and services that improve the lives of those living with brain disorders.

About University Health Network
University Health Network consists of Toronto General and Toronto Western Hospitals, the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre, Toronto Rehabilitation Institute, and The Michener Institute for Education at UHN. The scope of research and complexity of cases at University Health Network has made it a national and international source for discovery, education and patient care. It has the largest hospital-based research program in Canada, with major research in cardiology, transplantation, neurosciences, oncology, surgical innovation, infectious diseases, genomic medicine and rehabilitation medicine. University Health Network is a research hospital affiliated with the University of Toronto.

Media Contacts:

Jinna Kim
(905) 316-2179

Michelle Wilson
Ontario Brain Institute
(647) 872-1215

Jarrett Churchill
University Health Network
(416) 603-5800 x 5294

1 Understanding Parkinson’s: Parkinson’s FAQ, 2010.

2 Parkinson's disease: Prevalence, diagnosis and impact, November 2015.

3 PhRMA, Biopharmaceutical Research and Development: The Process Behind New Medicines, August 2015.

4 Brain Canada Foundation, 2016.

5 Neurological Health Charities Canada (NHCC), Health Canada, Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC), Canadian Institute of Health Research (CIHR). MAPPING CONNECTIONS: An Understanding of Neurological Conditions in Canada. Sept. 2014. pg.66.

6 Neurodegenerative Disorders, 2016.