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Citing lackluster financial performance, IBM is halting development and sales of a product that uses its Watson artificial intelligence software to help pharmaceutical companies discover new drugs, according to a person familiar with the company’s internal decision-making.

The decision to shut down sales of Watson for Drug Discovery marks the highest-profile retreat in the company’s effort to apply artificial intelligence to various areas of health care. Last year, the company scaled back on the hospital side of its business, and it’s struggled to develop a reliable tool to assist doctors in treating cancer patients.


Some IBM employees were told of the decision in recent weeks; it triggered a monthslong process to re-evaluate IBM’s work in the pharmaceutical sector and examine other business opportunities, according to the source, who asked for anonymity due to fear of reprisals from IBM.

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