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Quantum Interest Growing Among Life Science Companies

According to a new survey conducted by the Pistoia Alliance, the Quantum Economic Development Consortium and QuPharm, life science organizations have a keen interest in quantum computing, with nearly one third of companies ready to begin evaluations of the technology this year.

This is huge news for the quantum industry – particularly for startups that can begin positioning themselves to serve a massive new audience that will find itself in need of tools and software very shortly. The potential benefits of equipping these newfound partners is difficult to overstate. For example, if the world was to face another pandemic along the lines of COVID-19 in a quantum-savvy future, a vaccine could be developed well before the disease caused a significant amount of damage.

Supporting the opportunity for quantum startups, 28 percent of respondents indicated that a shortage of skills and lack of access to quantum infrastructure were among the biggest barriers blocking their immediate interest and implementation of the technology.

An impressive majority among the companies – 82 percent – expressed belief that quantum computing would have an impact on their industry within the next 10 years. Roughly the same number of respondents said that they believe quantum computing deployments in the biopharmaceutical industry will provide boons for both discovery and development.

This affirms that companies recognize what many in the quantum industry already know – the importance of preparing for the “quantum advantage,” defined as the breakthrough when quantum computers can solve practically relevant problems better or faster than conventional machines.

The quantum advantage will be particularly beneficial to life sciences. With sufficient deployment and application of quantum computing, precision medicine would undergo explosive growth brought on by the ability to calculate multiple probabilities and outcomes simultaneously. The time saved by these instantaneous, multifaceted calculations would enormously expedite the development of vaccines – as in our earlier COVID-19 example – and all manner of other groundbreaking research.

In a release announcing the results of the study, QED-C Deputy Director Celia Merzbacher said the time has come to focus on spelling out how quantum can assist life sciences companies and address any obstacles that may throttle forward progress.

“There are myriad opportunities for quantum computing in life sciences and health care, and through this community of interest the pharmaceutical and quantum computing sectors can work together to identify and communicate areas of early and high potential,” Merzbacher said.

“While quantum computing is still emerging, now is the time to jointly define use cases and challenges in pharmaceutical discovery and development that quantum computing can address. Better understanding of the pharmaceutical bottlenecks can accelerate quantum computing hardware and software development for overcoming those.”

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