IBM Opens Watson Health HQ, Expands Watson Health Cloud


Big Blue opened new headquarters for its Watson Health unit in Cambridge, Mass., and expanded the Watson Health Cloud with new solutions

IBM announced new headquarters and new leadership for its Watson Health unit, along with new Watson Health Cloud capabilities and a series of new partnerships for the organization.

IBM opened its new IBM Watson Health global headquarters in Cambridge, Mass., and announced that Deborah DiSanzo is joining the company as the business unit’s general manager. DiSanzo brings to IBM more than 30 years of experience working at the intersection of health care and technology. Her most recent position before joining Big Blue was as CEO for Philips Healthcare.

DiSanzo will lead more than 2,000 IBMers, with a mandate to scale the business globally, expand the capabilities of the IBM Watson Health Cloud and broaden a growing ecosystem that is building on IBM’s technology platform. Further, she will oversee a fast-growing roster of clients and partners that includes relationships with Johnson & Johnson, Apple, Medtronic, Epic and CVS Health, among others. She will report to IBM Watson Group leader Michael Rhodin.

Watson Health’s global headquarters are located at 75 Binney Street in Cambridge’s Kendall Square and will serve as a home base for more than 700 IBM employees. For entrepreneurs and startups, Watson Health’s Cambridge headquarters will provide technology, tools and talent to create new products and businesses based on Watson. Big Blue will open an interactive Watson Health Experience Center in Cambridge, and IBM Research will establish a dedicated Health Research lab at the headquarters.


ibm watson hqIBM also expanded its solutions portfolio with the introduction of IBM Watson Health Cloud for Life Sciences Compliance and IBM Watson Care Manager.

The IBM Watson Health Cloud for Life Sciences Compliance will help biomedical companies bring medical innovations to market more efficiently. This solution will help the companies fast-track the deployment of a GxP-compliant infrastructure and applications while adhering to stringent requirements for hosting, accessing and sharing regulated data.

“The IBM Watson news announced today blends strategic Watson solutions and tactical moves designed to strengthen the company’s position in critical healthcare areas,” said Charles King, principal analyst at Pund-IT. “The most ambitious of these is probably the new Watson Health Cloud for Life Sciences Compliance. Though it’s an ungainly brand, the new service’s focus on enhancing the processes required for bringing new pharmaceutical products to market could eventually improve the lives of tens of thousands of patients.”

IBM Watson Care Manager is a population health solution that integrates capabilities from Watson Health, Apple’s HealthKit and ResearchKit, a software framework designed by Apple to make it easy for researchers to conduct studies using an iPhone. It enables medical professionals to factor a broad range of determinants into a personalized patient engagement program.

“The potential impact of the new Watson Care Manager is less dramatic, since it aims to allow researchers to conduct studies with iPhones,” King said. “But it does highlight IBM’s continuing partnership with Apple and the company’s promotion of iPhones and iPads to enterprise customers.”

“IBM is dedicated to developing market leading, industry-specific cloud offerings that meet each sectors’ unique needs,” said Rhodin, senior vice president of IBM Watson Group, in a statement. “This newest expansion of the IBM Watson Health Cloud makes it an even more robust and flexible platform for the life sciences and healthcare industries and explains its rapid adoption among leading organizations in these fields.”

Health Cloud

Doctor, healthcare © Pressmaster, Shutterstock 2014Meanwhile, IBM announced that Boston Children’s Hospital, Columbia University, ICON plc, Sage Bionetworks and Teva Pharmaceuticals will join the roster of organizations that are using Watson’s capabilities to transform areas such as drug discovery and development, personalized medicine, chronic disease management, pediatrics and digital health. They join CVS Health, Medtronic and Yale University, among others. Teva and Sage both announced the Watson Health Cloud is their organizations’ preferred development platform.

“Watson Health is driving a new era of technology-driven health, enabling entrepreneurs and industry leaders to address diverse needs, spanning the earliest stages of research all the way through to clinical care and population health through to consumer wellness,” Rhodin said. “The variety of new partners and use cases underscores the flexibility and scalability of the IBM Watson Health Cloud to help leaders rapidly advance the state of the art in health and wellness. Further, IBM Watson Health is building for scale, with partners, offerings and now a worldwide headquarters designed to help global organizations meet the world’s pressing health needs.”

The Watson Health headquarters opening ceremony featured demonstrations by health ecosystem partners Best Doctors, Modernizing Medicine, Pathway Genomics, Socrates and Welltok, which showed how Watson is being deployed in solutions such as enabling cost-effective second opinion services, helping optimize physician practice patterns and supporting consumers’ ability to make informed medical choices.

IBM Watson Health has achieved significant market momentum since it was introduced five months ago. New collaborations include Boston Children’s Hospital (BCH), which has been Watson Health’s foundational pediatrics partner, building on an existing relationship between the two entities. IBM will integrate Watson’s deep and iterative question-and-answer capability to enhance and scale the OPENPediatrics initiative, a BCH initiative to bring life-saving medical knowledge to pediatric caregivers worldwide.

Moving forward, BCH and IBM will jointly develop solutions for commercialization, initially pursuing applications in personalized medicine, heart health and critical care with the potential to leverage Watson Genomic Analytics to assist researchers and clinicians in the treatment of rare pediatric disease; apply Watson’s image analytics capabilities with the intent to help clinicians improve diagnoses for children facing heart health conditions; and apply streaming analytics to data from patients on ventilation systems, with the intent to help medical professionals predict patient decline before it occurs, IBM said.

Columbia University Medical Center’s departments of Pathology & Cell Biology and Systems Biology will collaborate with IBM to test using Watson to help oncologists in the Columbia Herbert Irving Comprehensive Cancer Center translate DNA insights into personalized treatment options for patients. Columbia is the sixteenth cancer center to test the use of Watson Genomic Analytics to bring precision medicine to patients.

In addition, Sage Bionetworks’ Open Biomedical Research Platform will be powered by the IBM Watson Health Cloud, as the IBM Watson Health Cloud is the platform of choice for Sage to aggregate, store, curate and analyze data collected via apps using ResearchKit. Sage currently has active ResearchKit projects in breast cancer and Parkinson’s disease.

“Successful biomedical research requires active participation and data sharing across a wide variety of stakeholders,” said Stephen H. Friend, MD, Ph.D., president, co-founder and director of Sage Bionetworks, in a statement. “The IBM Watson Health Cloud can help us break down barriers that hamper progress in research and accelerate discovery through open collaboration by providing broadly accessible storage with large capacity.”

And Teva Pharmaceuticals announced that IBM Watson Health Cloud will serve as Teva’s technology platform of choice to build solutions to help millions of individuals with complex and chronic conditions such as asthma, pain and neurodegenerative diseases. Teva expects to introduce its first e-health solution in 2016.

“The details provided by IBM partners and customers on their Watson-related efforts bolster IBM’s original decision to focus the platform on the health care and medical industries,” Pund-IT’s King said. “The fact is that Watson’s ability to simplify and ease access to massive volumes of complex information seems to be tailor-made for the health care sector. The list of projects the platform is currently being used for corroborates that point.”

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Originally published on eWeek.