IBM's Watson Enters Market For Analyzing Cancer Genetics

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Lukas Wartman — cancer survivor and researcher.

Dr. Lukas Wartman is ground zero in the genetic battle against cancer. The assistant director of cancer genomics at Washington University in St. Louis developed acute lymphoblastic leukemia himself.

When treatment options ran out, his colleagues looked to his DNA and RNA (the messenger chemical that helps turn DNA into proteins) to try to get him a second chance. It was an arduous process that took months and required the dedicated brainpower of several researchers – but it worked.

Now Wartman is participating in an effort that could make DNA sequencing accessible to many more cancer patients. The Genome Institute at Wash. U. is one of 14 big-name cancer centers partnering with IBM IBM -0.51% to use the computing giant’s Watson artificial intelligence system to compare patients’ genetic data with databases of cancer genes and every scientific paper published about cancer genetics. What takes a team of experts hours or days can be accomplished in minutes. (Read a blog post Wartman wrote about the project here.)

“I’m not aware of another platform that allows as much power right now nor have I seen one in development,” Wartman says.

The 14-university effort is part of a grand court press to push Watson into healthcare. A month ago it announced collaborations with Medtronic MDT -1.3%,<a class="exit_trigger_set" style="box-sizing: border-box; margin: 0px; padding: