Novo Nordisk Chooses IBM's Watson to Harness Diabetes Drug Data

  • Companies to explore possibilities for improved diabetes care
  • Agreement adds to others between drugmakers and Google, Fitbit

The world’s biggest insulin maker is teaming up with a unit of IBM to crunch data on how people are managing their diabetes, the latest collaboration of its kind between pharmaceutical and technology companies.

Novo Nordisk A/S plans to gather information from patients using its treatments and devices to develop more advanced ways to keep the disease in check, the Danish company said in a statement Thursday. Novo’s partner Watson, International Business Machine Corp.’s cognitive computing platform, can process vast amounts of data to uncover user patterns and suggest possibilities for improved diabetes care.

The initiative adds to other efforts by drugmakers to track patients using their products through smartphones, Fitbits, contact lenses and other wearable technology. Google Inc.’s life-science unit is working with Novo’s rival Sanofi to store and analyze glucose levels in real time, enabling diabetes patients and their doctors to respond more quickly to peaks and troughs in blood sugar.

Diabetes will affect an estimated 600 million people by 2035, the International Diabetes Federation has estimated. The condition costs about $245 billion a year in the U.S. alone in health-care resources and lost productivity, according to the American Diabetes Association.

Novo declined to disclose the financial details of the agreement with IBM. Watson is the fastest-growing part of IBM’s analytics business, which brought in about $17 billion in revenue last year, or about 18 percent of sales.