This is Watson's second foray into the health sector, where IBM began providing the supercomputer's service to WellPoint (NYSE:WLP), one of the world's top health-maintenance organizations, in January. On March 6, IBM said Watson would be tapped by Citigroup (NYSE: C) for its first use in financial applications.
Manoj Saxena, general manager of IBM's Watson Solutions Group, said the Armonk, N.Y., company would stick with the health and financial verticals for the rest of the year, then consider other industries.
Besides its fame for beating three champions on the TV game show Jeopardy! in February 2011, Watson is one of the world's most powerful supercomputers, with the ability to comprehend speech and scan billions of bytes of data quickly. The supercomputer is comprised of 90 IBM Power 750 servers that use 15 trillion bytes of random-access memory (RAM) and 2,880 processors that are shared among various U.S. IBM centers.
Watson will be used by Memorial Sloan-Kettering researchers to sift through vast amounts of research data to answer queries and provide the most current and relevant information.
Memorial Sloan-Kettering is one of the world's premier cancer research centers. Its president, Craig B. Thompson, said in a statement that he expected tremendous new research opportunities to result from the project.
Martin Kohn, IBM's chief medical scientist, said the complexity of fighting cancer is exactly the type of grand challenge IBM Watson can help address.
IBM shares rose 61 cents to $205.30 in midday tradingThursday.