Computers with learning capabilities, such as IBM Watson, are capable of digesting and interpreting millions of pages of scientific literature and data to assist pharma companies in development of new drugs and repurposing of existing ones. Watson has demonstrated the ability to discover previously unknown connections between diseases and as it continues to learn, it can modify its recommendations based on new information.
Researchers and scientists at big pharma companies have already started using Watson to assist in research and development. Johnson & Johnson is collaborating with the IBM Watson Discovery Advisor team to teach Watson to read and understand scientific papers that detail clinical trial outcomes used to develop and evaluate medications and other treatments. At the same time, Sanofi is exploring how it can speed up the discovery of alternative indications for existing drugs (drug re-purposing).
Watson can recall the millions of pages of text from medical journals and clinical trials, historical cases including medical records, patient outcomes and physician’s notes, and make an assessment within a few minutes. This has the potential to massively reduce costs and significantly improve the discovery process.