IBM Watson Health pulls plug on Drugs Discovery service

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IBM’s Watson Health business unit stops offering its Drugs Discovery service due to disappointing sales figures. The AI-based platform is used by pharmaceutical companies to apply artificial intelligence (AI) in the development of new drugs. However, the service remains active for existing customers, according to the medical journal Stat.

Drug Discovery combines a number of tools, including a search engine that scientists can use to find information about specific human genes or chemical compounds. It also includes a knowledge network, which describes relationships between existing drugs and diseases.

Focus on clinical development

Instead of aiming for a failing product, IBM is now looking to renew Watson’s medical focus on clinical trials: We are concentrating our resources within Watson Health to double our focus on the adjacent area of clinical development. Here we see an even greater market need for our data and AI capabilities, according to an IBM spokesman in a response to Stat.

Taking Drug Discovery off the air says something about the new IBM. The company no longer wants to invest in products that do not get off to a good start. According to Holger Mueller, analyst at Constellation Research, IBM would have fought back in the past. However, several quarters with declining revenues now seem to get a grip on IBM’s DNA, according to him. It is an unfortunate, but probably a recognition of the new reality for IBM. In the interest of the overall AI industry, all suppliers should invest. Moreover, they have to take more steps than before and solve problems instead of withdrawing. Let’s hope this is an exception.

Heavy weather

The fact that the plug is now being pulled out of Drug Discovery also says something about the problems IBM’s health division is currently facing. Last October, Deborah DiSanzo, former General Manager IBM Watson Health, resigned after a series of redundancies. She joined the IBM Cognitive Solutions strategic team and was succeeded at Watson Health by John Kelly.

IBM also previously announced high-profile partnerships that were not entirely dedicated to drug discovery. For example, the company entered into partnerships with Pfizer, Novartis International AG and Illumina in the field of cancer research. As far as the reuse of medicines is concerned, the cooperation with Teva Pharmaceutical Industries was sought. However, according to Stat, these initiatives were still not profitable enough.

Read also: American FDA wants tough regulations for AI and ML medical devices

This news article was automatically translated from Dutch to give Techzine.eu a head start. All news articles after September 1, 2019 are written in native English and NOT translated. All our background stories are written in native English as well. For more information read our launch article.