Teva, IBM to tackle new drugs, chronic diseases with AI

Companies say they will expand their existing global e-Health alliance using the IBM Watson Health Cloud

Shoshanna Solomon was The Times of Israel's Startups and Business reporter

The Jerusalem office of the Israeli drug company Teva Pharmaceuticals (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
The Jerusalem office of the Israeli drug company Teva Pharmaceuticals (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

IBM and Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd. said Wednesday they would significantly expand their existing global e-Health alliance with a focus on two key healthcare areas: the discovery of new treatment options and improving chronic disease management.

Both projects will run on the IBM Watson Health Cloud, the two companies said in a statement. The IBM Watson Health Cloud is a health-data enabled platform-as-a-service which is designed to help healthcare organizations derive individualized insights and obtain a more complete picture of the many factors that can affect people’s health based on machine learning.

The expanded partnership underlines the increased convergence of drugs discovery and treatments with cognitive computing, which aims to improve and better target medication for patients, increase effectiveness and lower costs.

The companies said the expanded cooperation envisages a new, three-year research collaboration to develop new technologies that will enable a systematic approach to help repurpose drugs and aid in the discovery of new uses for existing drugs, the joint statement said.

Thirty percent of regulatory approvals by the FDA in recent years have been for new uses of previously approved drugs and vaccines. A repurposing approach to drug discovery and development aims to streamline the time- and cost-intensive process of bringing new therapies to market, which can take the industry up to 20 years and cost in excess of $2.5 billion.

Erez Vigodman, Israeli President and CEO of Teva Pharmaceutical Industries (Miriam Alster/FLASH90)
Erez Vigodman, Israeli President and CEO of Teva Pharmaceutical Industries (Miriam Alster/FLASH90)

The aim of the new collaboration between Teva and IBM Research is to design, build, and set out a systematic process for drug repurposing, potentially becoming a blueprint for use across the industry, the companies said in a statement. The process will combine human insight with unique machine learning algorithms and real-world evidence accessed through the IBM Watson Health Cloud. IBM Watson Health Cloud technology will be applied “on a massive scale” with the aim of revealing previously hidden correlations between a drug molecule and health conditions, the statement said.

Teva and IBM also said that respiratory and central nervous system diseases will be the first targets for their chronic disease management initiative, which will be the first project to integrate data from IBM’s The Weather Company, a weather forecasting company, into the analysis.

Chronic diseases present a global burden, both on patients and on healthcare systems, the statement said. Widespread chronic diseases, like asthma, which is estimated to impact 400 million people around the world by 2025, remain uncontrolled in many patients despite decades of availability to proven medications.

To address the global impact of chronic diseases, Teva and IBM said that they are working together on an initiative to combine Teva’s drugs with IBM Watson’s cognitive computing, to help patients, healthcare providers, and payers to better understand and control chronic conditions, and track treatments.

IBM's Watson competes on US TV show Jeopardy, January 11, 2013 (Photo credit: Courtesy IBM)
IBM’s Watson competes on US TV show Jeopardy, January 11, 2013 (Photo credit: Courtesy IBM)

The chronic disease management collaboration will combine cloud-connected drug delivery and app technology with more than six billion data points processed by Watson to provide insights, including the first-ever integration of data from The Weather Company. Using Watson’s cognitive processing capabilities and newly developed algorithms, the data can then be used to calculate the prospective risk of health events, such as an asthma attack, with Teva delivering that information directly to caregivers and their patients via an app or other software interface.

Yitzhak Peterburg, Teva’s chairman of the board of directors, announced the news together with IBM chairman, president and CEO Ginni Rometty at IBM’s World of Watson conference held in Las Vegas this week.

“Teva’s products reach 200 million people every day with the world’s largest medicine cabinet. We have the opportunity to lead change in the pharmaceutical industry, innovating constantly to meet consumers’ evolving needs,” said Peterburg in the statement. “By combining the skills of our partners, such as Watson’s cognitive computing capabilities, with Teva’s pharmaceutical expertise, we can create novel solutions and deliver real value to people.”

“Working together, Teva and IBM create an unprecedented opportunity to help doctors and patients worldwide achieve the promise of personalized healthcare,” said Deborah DiSanzo, general manager for IBM Watson Health. “IBM and Teva’s announcements today are notable for two reasons. First, IBM’s work with Teva extends from the biopharmaceutical research bench to an individual’s medicine cabinet — underscoring the power of Watson cognitive computing across life sciences and healthcare. Second, this work includes the first integration of data from The Weather Company with the Watson Health Cloud, a milestone and demonstrable of how the definition of ‘health data’ is evolving.”

Teva’s use of the IBM Watson Health Cloud will comply with operational and security requirements for health data, the statement said.

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