Teva, IBM expand partnership by to use Watson for chronic disease management, drug repurposing

By Heather Mack
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Global pharmaceutical company Teva has joined forces with IBM in a three-year research collaboration that integrates with the Watson Health Cloud. The project builds on an existing alliance between the two companies and will focus on two key areas in healthcare: developing a systematic approach to discovering new uses for existing drugs and improving chronic disease management.

The joint work in chronic disease management comes out of Teva’s existing alliance with IBM as a Foundational Life Sciences Partner for the IBM Watson Health Cloud. Using Teva’s therapeutic technologies and Watson’s cognitive computing, the companies are working to help doctors, patients and payers to better manage chronic conditions like asthma, plus track treatments.

This isn’t Teva’s first venture into chronic disease management. Last year, the company acquired smart inhaler company Gecko Health Innovations, which made a sensor device, data analytics platform and accessible user interface to help asthma and COPD patients manage their condition. It's likely the company is using data from those inhaler sensors in the collaboration.

“Teva envisions a future where we can empower patients and their families to better understand diseases, like asthma, and cope with health challenges in a more systematic, data-driven manner, with the ability to be proactive, rather than reactive,” Teva Global Specialty Medicine CEO Dr. Rob Koremans said in a statement. “In doing so, we aim to cut treatment costs by providing patients, payers, healthcare providers and caregivers with relatable data that can inform action and insights into a patient’s total disease management plan.”

The collaboration with IBM will combine cloud-connected drug delivery and app technology with more than six billion data points processed by Watson, integrated with data from the Weather Company, to provide patients and doctors actionable insights. Watson’s cognitive processing and algorithmic functions will take that data to calculate the prospective risk of events like an asthma attack, and Teva will step in to send that information, via an app or other device, directly to the patient and their caregivers.

On the drug repurposing aspect of the project, Teva and IBM hope to streamline the time consuming and costly process of bringing new therapeutic uses for existing drugs to market. Not only can this process take decades and cost billions, it’s also only a possibility at all due to rare findings and or isolated research. The partnership between Teva and IBM will leverage the IBM Watson Health Cloud on a massive scale to combine human insight, machine learning and real-world evidence.

“This collaboration will bring together the science and the technology to scale up ‘serendipity’ to an industrial level, opening up new and exciting possibilities to create novel treatments for patients based on existing medicine,” Teva’s President of Global R&D and Chief Scientific Officer Michael Hayden said in a statement.