RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK – IBM says it is not dropping its Watson artificial intelligence tool that had been marketed as a way for pharmaceutical firms with drug development.

“We are not discontinuing our Watson for Drug Discovery offering,” IBM said in an email.

“We remain committed to its continued success for our clients currently using the technology,” a spokesperson added.

“We are focusing our resources within Watson Health to double down on the adjacent field of clinical development where we see an even greater market need for our data and AI capabilities.”

The spokesperson explained that if clients want the Drug Discovery service, it remains an option.

“The offering is staying on the market, and we’ll work with clients who want to team with IBM in this area,” she said.  “But our future efforts will be more focused on clinical trials — it’s a much bigger market and a better use of our technology and tools.”

Earlier Wednesday, news site STAT reported that IBM was halting sales “citing lackluster financial performance.”

STAT cited an unnamed source “familiar with the company’s internal decision-making.”

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The move was not the first made by IBM with Watson offerings in the health field.

“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,” STAT reported.

“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.”

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STAT also reported earlier that Deborah DiSanzo left the post as head of IBM Watson Health for a position at IBM’s Cognitive Solutions team.

IBM also dropped a Watson Workplace AI tool earlier this year, SeekingAlpha noted.

IBM employs several thousand people across North Carolina, is in the process of acquiring Raleigh-based Red Hat for $34 billion, and operates one of its largest corporate campuses in RTP.

More recent Watson AI headlines:

IBM defends Watson Health AI efforts after critical media reports

Report: Head of IBM’s Watson Health leaves for new role

Report: IBM is dropping its Watson Workspace offering


Inside IBM earnings: Tepid growth reflects persistent turmoil in Watson Health organization