TechMatters is a semi-regular column exploring the intersection between tech and our lives, why it matters, and how it’s helping to improve our quality and vitality of life.
Here, we will profile new startups and products that have a vested interest in the betterment of life on a physical, emotional, and humanitarian level.
The fight against cancer requires teamwork and cooperation. IBM is doing its part by making its proprietary trio of cancer-fighting AI systems open source. By allowing scientists in research labs worldwide to access these powerful tools, the company hopes that more cancer treatments will become available.
The three tools are designed to make researching cancer drugs a smoother, faster process. By taking much of the guesswork out of developing treatments, they can reach clinical trials and eventually, patients in need, much faster than ever before.
According to a recent press release from IBM, the company will present the trio of AI tools at two different conferences this week. Both events focus on molecular biology and are taking place in Switzerland.
IBM’s tools tackle different parts of the cancer treatment process with a unique approach to every phase. The first system, PaccMann, uses deep learning to crunch data on massive quantities of chemical compounds. From there, it can reliably predict which ones may prove to be useful in creating new cancer drugs. Scientists have already seen success with a similar tool for developing a flu vaccine booster.
Meanwhile, the second tool, called INtERAcT, automatically sorts through countless medical journals and pulls out important updates. With it, researchers can stay up to date on the latest happenings. Better yet, they will be able to access information in less time than it takes to browse individual publications.
Finally, PIMKL (though it could have used a better name) helps doctors tailor their care to each patient. It uses current knowledge of molecular interactions to predict how a patient’s cancer will likely progress and when potential relapses may occur.
Together, the three tools could potentially help slow and hopefully end, the growing number of cancer deaths worldwide. In 2018 alone, cancer claimed the lives of 9.6 million people.
There are many potential avenues to developing a cure. However, one thing all cancer researchers agree on is that the key to ending the disease is understanding it. IBM seems to agree with that sentiment. By sharing its AI-powered research tools, the company is opening the door for scientists worldwide to learn more about the disease.
In its press release, the company said, “Our goal is to deepen our understanding of cancer to equip industries and academia with the knowledge that could potentially one day help fuel new treatments and therapies.”
It is important to note that these new tools are not affiliated with the Doctor Watson project that raised significant controversy after offering bad medical advice.
By making its AI-powered tools open source, IBM hopes to advance the world of cancer research. What discoveries scientists will make with them remains to be seen. Regardless, the powerful technology will undoubtedly help bring more treatments to patients.