Moderna partners with IBM to apply quantum to mRNA research

Moderna partners with IBM to apply quantum to mRNA research

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By Dan O’Shea posted 21 Apr 2023

Moderna, the biotech research firm behind messenger RNA (mRNA) therapeutics and vaccines, is partnering with IBM to explore how quantum computing and artificial intelligence can help advance and accelerate mRNA research and science.

Though pharmaceutical and biotech companies have been among the firms most aggressively pursuing quantum computing, but some big names like Moderna have not done much with the technology just yet. The agreement announced this week between Moderna and IBM will change that, as the Cambridge, Massachusetts, company that produced the Spikevax Covid-19 vaccine, among others, is joining the IBM Quantum Network and IBM Quantum Accelerator program.

A statement issued by the companies said that Moderna scientists will learn how quantum technology “could be applied to previously intractable problems for classical computers. Together, the companies will explore the potential application of quantum approaches to Moderna’s scientific challenges… IBM will provide access to quantum computing systems, as well as expertise to assist Moderna in exploring cutting-edge life sciences use-cases powered by quantum technologies.”

“Since our inception, we have always strived to be at the forefront of cutting-edge technology, leveraging innovations to deliver the greatest possible impact to people through mRNA medicines,” said Moderna CEO Stéphane Bancel. “We are excited to partner with IBM to develop novel AI models to advance mRNA science, prepare ourselves for the era of quantum computing, and ready our business for these game-changing technologies. We are aiming for breakthrough advances with quantum computing, so we are investing now in building a quantum-ready workforce, to be fully prepared to harness the power of this technology.”

Dr. Darío Gil, Senior Vice President, and Director of IBM Research, added, “Moderna will be able to take advantage of our multi-year research efforts in generative AI for therapeutics that can allow scientists to better understand how molecules behave and may facilitate creating entirely new ones. We are also excited to work with Moderna to help prepare their scientists in the knowledge and use of IBM’s industry-leading quantum computing technologies with the goal of accelerating the discovery and creation of new therapeutics.”

There is also an AI aspect to the partnership, as Moderna and IBM scientists will apply MoLFormer, an AI foundation model that can help scientists predict a molecule’s properties, and could help them understand the characteristics of potential mRNA medicines. There has been much discussion across the industry about the intersection of AI and quantum, though the companies did not specifically mention combing the two technologies.

Dan O’Shea has covered telecommunications and related topics including semiconductors, sensors, retail systems, digital payments and quantum computing/technology for over 25 years.

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