IBM and Teva extend partnership to put Watson to work on chronic disease management


Can Big Data and cognitive insights improve medication adherence? That’s the bet IBM Watson Health and Teva Pharmaceuticals are making in an expanded partnership to tackle chronic diseases.

The initiative in disease management will focus first on respiratory and central nervous system disorders and will include more than 6 billion data points. For instance, some of the data could come from the Weather Company, which IBM bought last year. Watson’s cognitive computing can use weather data as one factor in predicting the risk of health problems such as asthma attacks, which Teva can then communicate to its patients.  

“There’s an extraordinary opportunity to do what I’d call personal health management,” Kyu Rhee, chief health officer at IBM Watson Health, said in an interview with FiercePharma. "This idea of transitioning from taking care of one population at a time to one person at a time. And personalize for each individual their unique needs to help them personalize, predict and prevent bad health outcomes and promote good outcomes."

The partnership will also use Watson's trove of data and cognitive powers to find and repurpose drugs for those chronic conditions.

It's especially important for Teva to get an edge in the competitive respiratory market where GlaxoSmithKline, AstraZeneca and Novartis are also putting a lot of resources. The smart inhaler Teva is working on with Watson is one way to do that, because while its competitors have also recently struck deals for smart respiratory devices, the back-end cognitive power of Watson is an advantage.

As Teva's lead drug, the multiple sclerosis treatment Copaxone, faces generic competition and declining sales, the respiratory and central nervous system drugs it's working on with Watson become more important to its bottom line. Its newer version of Copaxone is bogged down as well, mired in patent disputes that so far don't appear to be going Teva's way. 

On the development side of the Teva Watson extended partnership, Watson will unleash its cognitive computing prowess on mountains and years of aggregate research data that no human could ever cull, in search of correlations between existing drugs and other health conditions.

A recent article in Nature noted that some “estimates suggest that the number of repositioned drugs entering the regulatory-approval pipeline is rising, and could account for about 30% of all drugs approved every year.”

"Many drugs are not successful, as you know, and they don’t get through successful clinical trials. But there is data that can be leveraged and looked at to find new purposes,” Rhee said. “It’s about looking at the data that you already have and identifying new uses for existing drugs to provide more treatment options, bring drugs to market up to two times faster and up to 50% cheaper to develop.”

IBM's Watson group works with other pharma companies on data-driven health initiatives. It has teamed up with Novo Nordisk on personalized diabetes care, Medtronic on predicting hypoglycemia, Johnson & Johnson on a range of chronic conditions, and GlaxoSmithKline in consumer healthcare marketing.

The GSK partnership rolled out its first product, the Cold and Flu Tracker, last month on the Weather Channel website and app, using Watson to supply real-time virus activity. The J&J partnership is working on personalized consumer healthcare coaching apps currently focused on pre- and postoperation care to speed recovery times.

- read Teva and IBM news
- see the Nature article

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