Munich Leukemia Laboratory (MLL) inked a research collaboration with IBM and Illumina to develop a prototype cognitive platform that will help clinicians and researchers diagnose and optimize personalized treatment protocols for leukemia and lymphoma.

Through the collaboration, clinical diagnostics and research laboratory MLL will use Illumina’s NovaSeq™ technology to sequence samples from more than 500,000 cases. Genomic data will be interpreted alongside phenotypic data, trial data, guidelines, and medical literature using IBM Watson’s cognitive computing platform.

The scope of the project includes automated phenotyping and genotyping, including whole-genome sequencing and transcriptome sequencing (RNA-Seq) of leukemia and lymphoma cases. MLL will also use Illumina’s BaseSpace data management and analysis platform to store, manage, analyze, and curate data and to facilitate data transfer to IBM Watson.

“Cognitive computing is critical to help providers unlock the insights hidden in large data pools and scale their expertise in a global market through digital services,” said Bart de Witte, director of digital health, IBM. “This research collaboration is indicative of the growing global market to create and implement new cognitive approaches to data-driven challenges for health systems that are increasingly overwhelmed by data.”

MLL said tools developed through the collaboration might, in time, be made available to other laboratories. Prof. Torsten Haferlach, co-founder and CEO of MLL, commented, “We at MLL are excited to combine our data and knowledge, IBM’s cognitive computing tools, and Illumina’s new sequencing platform to create a new era of insights in leukemia biology that will also drive more personalized treatment strategies.”

Illumina introduced the NovaSeq sequencing platform in January 2017, claiming that the technology could herald the $100 genome. Paula Dowdy, Illumina svp and general manager for Illumina, Europe, Middle East, and Africa, said MLL represents its first European customer for the NovaSeq technology. “MLL’s strategic decision to create a future path for whole-genome sequencing to help promote better health outcomes reflects one of Illumina’s key strategies to connect genomics to the everyday lives of those living with cancer.”

In January, Illumina and IBM Watson Health announced a partnership to integrate Watson for Genomics software into Illumina’s BaseSpace Sequence Hub and tumor sequencing processes. Also during January, IBM Watson Heath partnered with H. Lundbeck to exploit the cognitive computing platform in the field of psychiatric and neurological disorders. IBM launched the Watson Health Cloud and IBM Watson Health business unit in 2015. 

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