Moderna, IBM Trial Quantum to Develop Future Medicines

Partnership to explore quantum computing, generative AI to advance mRNA research and science
Berenice Baker

April 21, 2023

Researcher examines a DNA gel
Moderna aims to learn from IBM how quantum technology could be applied to life sciences. Getty

IBM and biotechnology pioneer Moderna have announced an agreement under which Moderna will explore next-generation technologies including quantum computing and artificial intelligence to advance and accelerate mRNA research and science.

Quantum Computing for Life Sciences

Under the agreement, Moderna scientists intend to learn from IBM how quantum technology could be applied to life sciences problems that classical computers cannot solve. Moderna would also join the IBM Quantum Accelerator program and the IBM Quantum Network, giving researchers access to quantum computing systems and expertise.

“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.”

Generative AI to Optimize mRNA Discovery

Moderna and IBM scientists will also use IBM’s MoLFormer AI foundation model to help understand the characteristics of potential mRNA medicines. Moderna’s initial use case involves exploring new ways to optimize lipid nanoparticles. These encapsulate and protect the mRNA medicines that act as instructions to cells to fight disease as they travel within the body.

“IBM’s purpose is to be the catalyst to make the world work better, perfectly exemplified by this partnership with Moderna. We are witnessing a revolution in the world of computing, driven by extraordinary advances in AI and quantum computing,” said IBM research senior vice-president Darío Gil.

“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.”

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