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Celgene and IBM to Launch Drug Safety Program

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The initiative – called IBM Watson for Patient Safety – will automatically collect, organize and analyze large amounts of data generated during, and after, drug development.

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November 7, 2016 | by Sarah Hand, M.Sc.

Participation in a clinical trial testing an experimental new drug is inherently risky, despite efforts made by the study sponsor to mitigate these risks. Even a drug which has a favorable safety profile throughout the clinical trials process may be associated with some serious adverse events after the drug has been launched on the market.

To address this issue, biotechnology company, Celgene has partnered with IT giant, IBM to launch a new drug safety program. The initiative – called IBM Watson for Patient Safety – will automatically collect, organize and analyze large amounts of data generated during, and after, drug development.



Watson is IBM’s technology platform that uses machine learning to analyze vast amounts of unstructured data. In this application, Watson will pull data from a multitude of sources, including electronic medical records and medical claims databases to support pharmaceutical and biotech companies throughout their drug development processes.

“For a long time, very big decisions around the use and disposition of drugs have been taken based on small datasets,” John Freeman, Celgene’s corporate vice president of global drug safety and risk management, told FierceBiotech. “This is an opportunity to not only streamline the way that information is handled within pharma companies and regulators, but also to enable much greater clarity of insight born of an ability to access large datasets.”

The benefit to pharma companies could be the ability to access and analyze side effects information from any given drug. Patients could also make use of the database by determining whether they are at risk of experiencing adverse events.

Watson will also be able to continuously update itself with every new piece of information it processes. This information could help pharmaceutical developers avoid the costs associated with failed drugs, thereby allowing them to focus their efforts on more promising therapeutics.


Keywords: Drug Safety, Adverse Event, Clinical Trial


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