Trending News Today: IBM Supercomputer to Help Treat Veterans with Cancer

Top news of the day from across the health care landscape.

Following Xencor Inc’s announcement of its deal with Novartis, shares rose by 32%, reported the Los Angeles Times. Under the new agreement, Novartis will pay $150 million to Xencor to begin with, and potentially more in the future as the companies continue to develop and commercialize a pair of experimental cancer drugs. One of the drugs is for the treatment of acute myeloid leukemia, while the other is for B-cell malignancies. Both drugs are expected to start early tests on patients later in the year. Xencor will keep the rights to the drugs in the United States, and Novartis will have commercialization rights in the rest of the world.

In a partnership between IBM and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), IBM’s supercomputer Watson will be used to help treat as many as 10,000 veterans with cancer. The VA-IBM partnership is part of the dozens of initiatives announced on Wednesday as part of Vice President Joe Biden’s cancer summit at Howard University. According to The Washington Post, the partnership will provide Watson technology to the VA’s precision-oncology program for free for 2 years. The AI system will analyze genomic information, zero in on cancer-causing mutations, and help identify potential treatments for these patients. David Shulkin, the VA’s undersecretary for health, stated that the health system currently uses groups of experts to analyze sequenced genetic data, and to determine treatment plans. However, with Watson, clinicians will be able to treat more patients and faster. The VA treats about 40,000 new cases of cancer a year, and that Watson would allow them to scale access to precision medicine for veterans, according to the report. The program will start in the third quarter of this year.

The FDA has approved Epclusa, the first hepatitis C combination drug that treats all 6 major strains of the disease, reported The Wall Street Journal. In the wake of the backlash that Gilead Sciences Inc, received for the high prices of their products Sovaldi and Harvoni, the company stated that Epclusa will run about half of the cost for the commonly used regimens at $74,760 before discounts. Epclusa is a combination of Sovaldi and the new velpatasvir therapy. Since the approval, shares of Gilead rose 3.6% to $81.09.

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