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Watson Health and Broad Institute Team Up for $50M Cancer Collaboration

Xconomy Boston — 

IBM Watson Health has been inking some big partnerships lately. Today the Cambridge, MA-based division of Big Blue said it has formed a five-year, $50 million research collaboration with the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard. IBM is footing the whole bill and contributing other resources as well.

The organizations are teaming up to study how and why cancers become resistant to drugs. The Broad Institute will generate tumor genome sequencing data from cancer patients who respond to treatment but then become drug-resistant; the Broad will then use “genome-editing methods to conduct large-scale cancer drug resistance studies,” according to a press release.

The Watson Health team will use computational and machine learning techniques to analyze the data and try to help researchers and clinicians predict drug sensitivity and resistance. In all, the teams say they will study “thousands of drug-resistant tumors.” One question is how many thousand they will get to in five years; some other cancer genomics efforts are pooling data from about 20,000 patients.

Eric Lander, founding director of the Broad, said in a prepared statement: “Knowing how cancers can become resistant will ultimately require learning from hundreds of thousands of patients’ experiences. We’re proud to work with IBM to make an important start toward this goal, and to make the information broadly available to the scientific community.”