IBM’s Watson for Genomics Launches in First European Hospital

Switzerland Hôpitaux Universitaires Genève HUG



The Hôpitaux Universitaires Genève in Switzerland will be the first European university hospital to implement IBM’s artificial intelligence to help doctors select treatments for complex cancer cases. 


“Artificial intelligence could empower our clinicians to increase the speed of diagnosing their patients,” said Rodolphe Meyer, who is responsible for the IT department of the Hôpitaux Universitaires Genève (HUG).


Meyer noted that the software is not meant to replace the clinicians, but rather save them time in the process of selecting the best treatment for a patient based on their DNA. Doctors at the Swiss hospital routinely analyze the DNA of cancer patients to find a treatment that could be suitable for their specific case. 


“It usually takes hours to analyze results the traditional way, searching for literature and data on the different treatments that are available,” Meyer told me. “Watson for Genomics can provide this info in 15 minutes. Clinicians can then use the time to be more precise in what they choose for their patients.”

Developed by IBM’s health division, Watson for Genomics is intended to improve the results of precision medicine approaches. The AI tool uses artificial intelligence to read through scientific literature and genomics databases to provide a list of the treatment options available to a patient  — either approved or being tested in clinical trials — based on their DNA. 

IBM Watson for Genomics


The software has been used in hospitals in North America and Asia for several years. Earlier this year, IBM reported that Watson for Genomics had resulted in the identification of actionable mutations that had not been identified through manual analysis in 33% of patients in a South Korean hospital.


At first, the HUG will only use the tool in the most complex cases of cancer patients. After a year, the hospital will evaluate the benefits of the AI tool and decide whether to expand its use to a broader range of patients. 

Another AI solution from IBM, called Watson for Oncology, came under fire last year when STAT News reported that the software had recommended “unsafe and incorrect” cancer treatments for some patients.

Images via Shutterstock; IBM

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