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Canadian neuroscience leaders tap IBM Watson to speed time to discovering new drugs for Parkinson disease

IBM Watson Health today announced that the Ontario Brain Institute (OBI) and the Movement Disorders Clinic (MDC) at Toronto’s University Health Network (UHN) will embark on Canada’s first ever Parkinson’s disease research project using the recently launched IBM Watson for Drug Discovery.

MDC researchers, along with members of the Informatics and Analytics team at OBI, will use Watson to accelerate the drug discovery process – transforming how researchers discover new drugs, and determine which drugs could potentially be repurposed in the fight against Parkinson’s disease – far more rapidly than by traditional methods.

Drawing from its body of nearly 31 million sources of relevant literature, IBM’s cloud-based cognitive enterprise solution analyzes scientific knowledge and data using machine learning and natural language processing.

According to the Parkinson’s Disease Foundation, an estimated seven to 10 million people globally are living with Parkinson's disease1, and it is the second most common neurodegenerative disorder in Canada, after Alzheimer’s disease.2

Currently, bringing a drug to market takes nearly 10 years and approximately $2.6 billion. Beyond that, 88 percent of new drugs fail in Phase I because of a lack of efficacy and safety.3

“Drug researchers are challenged by the sheer volume and pace of emerging data”, said Lauren O’Donnell, Vice President, IBM Watson Health Life Sciences. “Watson for Drug Discovery empowers researchers with cognitive tools that will help to speed drug discovery, and increase the likelihood of bringing effective therapies to patients more rapidly. “

”This partnership signals the beginning of a new era for neuroscience where researchers can work with data at an unprecedented level of sophistication and speed,” said Tom Mikkelsen, president and scientific director of the Ontario Brain Institute. “We are excited by the impact this could have on people living with Parkinson’s disease.”

“Ontario is committed to putting patients at the centre of our health care system, and provides funding to institutions that help make us a world leader in brain research and care,” said Dr. Eric Hoskins, Minister of Health and Long-Term Care. “This collaboration will result in research that could greatly improve the lives of people living with Parkinson's disease.”

“Through this exceptional collaboration we will gain better insight into Parkinson’s disease and speed up drug discoveries. I look forward to the results of this outstanding research for this hopeful news directly impacts all patients living with this disease as well as their families,” said Reza Moridi, Minister of Research, Innovation and Science.

In Canada, one in three individuals – over 11 million people – will face a psychiatric disease, a neurological disorder or a brain or spinal cord injury at some point in their lives4 and about 25 people are diagnosed with Parkinson’s each day5, according to the Ontario Brain Institute. In Ontario alone, an estimated 285,000 people currently suffer from some form of neurodegenerative disorder, such as Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS).6

Dr. Lorraine Kalia, a movement disorders neurologist and neuroscientist at the Krembil Neuroscience Centre at UHN, says cognitive technology like IBM Watson has the potential to make discoveries that can directly impact the health of Canadians. “The platform gives us the ability to look at connections that researchers might not have found without dedicating weeks or months of time,” said Dr. Kalia. “This includes identifying compounds that we have not previously considered investigating for the treatment of Parkinson’s disease.”

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