IBM plans to open new Watson Health facility by spring

Deborah DiSanzo, General Manager of IBM's Watson Health division.
Deborah DiSanzo, General Manager of IBM's Watson Health division.

I caught up yesterday with Deborah DiSanzo, who is running the new IBM Watson Health business unit in Cambridge. The division plans to apply IBM’s “cognitive computing” technology to provide insights to doctors and medical researchers — but DiSanzo made it clear when she spoke at the Global Pediatric Innovation Summit in Boston yesterday that Watson won’t be making any diagnoses or prescribing any pills. It’s strictly an analytical tool to help sift through large amounts of information intelligently.

DiSanzo, who joined IBM six weeks ago from Philips Healthcare, says IBM is relocating some employees to Cambridge for the new Watson Health division, but it’s also trying to hire hundreds ASAP. The plan is for a new facility at 75 Binney St. to be open by March and for it to eventually house about 700 workers. (IBM got $2.5 million in tax breaks to plant the new business in Massachusetts; it promised the state it’d create at least 500 new jobs here.)

The new Cambridge facility will also include a Client Experience Center, a way to showcase the Watson technology for “key clients and partners through real world collaborative and immersive cognitive computing experiences,” according to a job description.

Here’s a four-minute audio snippet from the session I moderated at yesterday’s conference with DiSanzo and Jeff Ruiz of Medtronic. She talks about what Watson Health is and the creation of the Cambridge site.

This morning, IBM and Boston Children’s Hospital announced a partnership that will use Watson to scour scientific publications and clinical databases to help doctors home in on the best treatment options for patients with rare pediatric diseases.

Scott Kirsner writes the Innovation Economy column every Sunday in the Boston Globe, in which he tracks entrepreneurship, investment, and big company activities around New England.
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