IBM has unveiled a new application for Watson — the Jeopardy winning super-computing system — designed to help academic researchers rapidly process scientific literature.
During a Thursday event at New York’s Museum of Art and Design, IBM researchers announced that the application, called the Watson Discovery Advisor, is now available to companies as an Internet-cloud based service.
The service can process large volumes of academic literature in a few hours, according to IBM Watson Group vice president and healthcare leader Rob Merkel. A genetic scientist might ask Watson which two genes are likely to occur together, and Watson would churn through thousands of journal articles — both in that particular institution’s library, and whatever information is publicly available — to identify common pairs.
Until it was made publicly available on Thursday, the service was being tested by Baylor College of Medicine, as well as Johnson & Johnson and the New York Genome Center. At Baylor, Watson processed 70,000 articles about proteins, helping researchers identify six proteins to target for further research. Johnson & Johnson used Watson to crunch articles about clinical trial outcomes.
Since January, IBM has been aggressively searching for ways commercialize Watson’s technology, which interprets natural language requests and mine data to find an answer. It is beta testing an application that could recommend recipes to chefs, given a few ingredients; the same system could be used for financial advising, shopping assistants or to aid in medical diagnoses.
“We are not a pharmaceutical company,” Merkel said in an interview. “We are not an academic resource,” he added, noting that the company aims to generate revenue by selling the software service to outside customers, who will retain rights to any intellectual property surfaced by Watson.