BlackBerry on Sunday unveiled plans for an encrypted browser that allows doctors and nurses to access cancer patients' genetic data from their smartphones.
The "NantOmics Cancer Genome Browser" is BlackBerry's first health care application and the first tool that the Canadian phone maker has developed with NantHealth, a "Big Data" health company in which it acquired a minority stake earlier this year. Founded by billionaire physician Patrick Soon-Shiong, NantHealth aims to revolutionize diagnostic technology by sequencing and identifying genetic data in just minutes.
More on NantHealth: The world's richest doctor plans to fix health care. Here's how.
According to Soon-Shiong, the new browser "enables clinicians for the first time to investigate a tumor genome from the full three billion bases down to the single-base level in real-time." Specifically, it will connect providers' BlackBerrys to a NantHealth system that can analyze tumors and offer treatment options.
Soon-Shiong says the system will allow oncologists to more quickly view test results from cancer patients' biopsies. Currently, doctors must wait weeks to receive results, and they often delay treatment in the interim.
BlackBerry CEO John Chen says the browser "really highlights [BlackBerry's] advantage in mobile security."
BlackBerry has not announced a release date for the new browser. It plans to pre-load the new software with its Passport smartphone—which it considers a niche product for certain professionals—in early 2015. The platform will also be available on certain non-BlackBerry devices, but it will be secured by the BlackBerry network.
Chen says he expects BlackBerry's partnership with Nanthealth will push some doctors to take a second look at BlackBerry. The company says the new browser is just "the first in a series of innovative offerings" stemming from the partnership (Rocha, Reuters, 12/7; Sawers, Venture Beat, 12/8; Dumett, Wall Street Journal, 12/7; De Vynck, Bloomberg, 12/7).
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