IBM's MRSA-fighting nanotechnology marks century of healthcare
11 April 2011
IBM’s announcement of the first biodegradable nanoparticles
that can seek out and destroy drug-resistant bacteria caps off a century
of healthcare and life sciences innovation from IBM.
Earlier this week, scientists from IBM announced ground-breaking
early research discovering new types of nanoparticles that are
physically attracted like magnets to MRSA cells, ignoring healthy
cells completely and targeting and killing the bacteria by poking
holes in its walls. This discovery could greatly improve the
effectiveness of medication.
This innovation is just one example of IBM’s ability to use
principles and technologies from computing, physics, materials
science and chemistry to advance the science of medicine.
To celebrate its centennial, IBM is unveiling an "icon of
progress" representing IBM's contributions to fighting infectious
diseases and contributions to world health. From the first
continuous blood separator which led to treatment for leukemia
patients, the first heart lung machine to keep patients alive during
surgery, to the excimer laser used in LASIK eye surgery, IBM has
made vast contributions to the fields of healthcare and life
Today, one in every eight of the earth's inhabitants will be over
65 by 2030, and more than one billion people are overweight and
another 388 million people will die in the next 10 years of a
chronic disease. New ways to treat illnesses, battle major outbreaks
and transform how healthcare is delivered around the world are
critical for the health of populations and for the economic health
of our communities.
Breakthroughs in nanotechnology, gene sequencing and even
innovations in chip design will continue to improve healthcare
around the world.
Recognizing World Health Day, IBM is also applying its expertise
to address public health issues such as in Cross River State,
Nigeria. Here biometric identification and solar energy are just a
few of the technologies in use to provide access to free healthcare
and reduce child and maternal mortality rates by a goal of 50% by
the end of 2011.
Through the years, IBM has created hardware and applications
specifically designed to improve care, diagnosis and treatment of
disease, and advance how medical knowledge is shared.
- Working with the World Health Organization, IBM precisely
mapped outbreaks of smallpox in 1976. This effort contributed to
the eventual eradication of the disease in the general
population a few years later.
- In the early 1990s IBM and the University of Washington
built a prototype of the first medical imaging system.
- IBM’s World Community Grid, released in 2004, continues to
use pervasive networking and crowdsourcing to apply
supercomputer levels of processing power to urgent healthcare
and societal needs such as fighting AIDs, cancer and dengue
fever and malaria.
- Using IBM’s Blue Gene supercomputing simulations,
researchers at IBM and the University of Edinburgh are currently
collaborating on lab experiments to design drugs aimed at
preventing the spread of the HIV virus.
- IBM is working with Roche on new nanopore-based technology
that will directly read and sequence human DNA quickly and
efficiently. The technology has the potential to improve
throughput and reduce costs to achieve the vision of whole human
genome sequencing at a cost of $100 to $1,000.
Today, IBM is turning its focus to healthcare transformation,
helping entire countries develop new patient-centric models of care,
connecting health information and enabling deep analytics of medical
At the heart of any healthcare transformation are electronic
health records, the basic building blocks of healthcare efficiency.
IBM has a long history of creating and connecting systems to share
patient information. When standardized and shared, electronic health
records provide a powerful means of increasing accuracy and speeding
the delivery of patient information to the point of care. They
enable better collaboration, more complete records, and better
service. Advanced health analytics provides new insight into the
treatment of disease, can speed discovery of new drugs and
therapies, and empowers healthcare providers with better information
to improve care.
IBM’s work to create smarter healthcare systems, optimized around
the patient, is aimed at reducing medical errors, achieving better
patient safety and quality outcomes and saving lives.
This year marks IBM’s centennial and healthcare continues to be
one of its most important areas of industry focus. The company
spends more than $6B a year on R&D, much of it on healthcare, and
IBM is one of the few technology companies with large teams of
physicians and other clinicians on staff to ensure healthcare’s most
pressing needs are met.