IBM ‘cognitive’ cloud has the answers for Teva and Icon

By Fiona BARRY contact

- Last updated on GMT

Cloud-based big data can fix patient recruitment, says IBM
Cloud-based big data can fix patient recruitment, says IBM

Related tags: Clinical trial

IBM Watson Health has struck deals with pharma company Teva and contract research organisation Icon to use its big data cloud tech to improve clinical trials and drug development.

Icon deal

Icon will use IBM’s Watson Health Cloud, a “cognitive computing​” platform, to help patient recruitment for 25 US breast, lung, colon and rectal cancer trials. It will also analyse study protocols to assess trial feasibility and find the best trial sites.

IBM launched Watson Health in April this year, including a cloud-based platform which allows clinical, research and personal health data to be anonymized and shared with researchers and doctors.

The system analyses high volumes of data, and according to IBM, can process complex questions asked in natural language and propose evidence-based answers, learning all the time from previous interactions. The organisation describes it as “the first commercially available cognitive computing capability representing a new era in computing.”

Icon will have access to de-identified data from 50 million patient records following IBM’s acquisition of Explorys’s data sets in April.

Recruitment troubles

Steve Cutler, chief operating officer, Icon, told the technology can help with stumbling blocks in patient recruitment – an area which can make up 30% of study costs.

The biggest challenges in patient recruitment are finding the right number of patients that match the criteria of a clinical trial and knowing where they are located.

“While some of the more recent approaches to patient recruitment, such as engaging with online patient networks, represent a positive step change from the traditional recruitment methods, a more radical approach is needed to truly help sponsors to take significant time and cost from their development programmes.”

Cutler said that while patients rely on their doctors to hear about clinical trial opportunities, many physicians report being too busy to stay informed. Additionally, as trials become more complex which increasing eligibility criteria, fewer patients match the medical profiles sought.

Cutler estimated that only 3% of the 13.8 million Americans living with cancer have participated in a trial and said IBM’s tech will allow Icon’s customers to more easily connect with patients and reduce their study start-up timelines.

The 25-trial pilot agreement will run for six months, after which it may be renewed. 

Teva deal

In a separate agreement, Israeli Teva Pharmaceuticals will use the IBM Watson Health Cloud to create disease models and “advanced therapeutic solutions.​”

"Teva is actively exploring the e-health evolution with a strong focus on fulfilling unmet and emerging patients' needs. The IBM Watson Health Cloud provides a strong foundation on which we can realize this vision,​" said Teva’s chief information officer Guy Hadari.

Teva will work with IBM to “enhance IBM Watson Health Cloud capabilities and explore synergies with existing Watson Health ecosystem partners,​” it said. The project will examine real world data to come up with solutions for reducing drug misuse and improving medicine adherence, among other topics.

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