(PharmaceuticalTechnology) One industry where quantum computers are often seen to have a lot of promise is pharma. In turn, pharma, and the wider life sciences industry, has demonstrated interest in exploring ways that quantum computers could drive efficiencies and optimise processes.
In a future-casting 2030 vision report, life sciences membership organisation Pistoia Alliance examined technological opportunities that might impact the pharma industry’s efficiency, and quantum computing was clearly identified. This led the organisation to set up a webinar and community of interest with its members and interested parties on this topic of interest, explains Pistoia Alliance operations team member John Wise, co-author of the 2030 vision report.
To support this initiative, Wise explains, Pistoia teamed up with Quantum Economic Development Consortium (QED-C), which was created in 2018 by the US Government as part of the National Quantum Initiative, and QuPharm, a pre-competitive collaboration of pharma companies interested in identifying use cases for quantum computing in the life science field.
During the webinar, the partners surveyed participants about the opportunities quantum computing hold for the life science industry. The poll found that 82% believed quantum computing would impact the industry in the next decade.
QED-C deputy director Celia Merzbacher emphasises how exciting it is that the pharma industry, as an end user of quantum computing, has taken it upon itself to start exploring the promise of this technology even at such an early stage. Merzbacher believes that building relationships with pharma companies as end users will accelerate progress and encourage quantum computing companies to target their innovations to the needs of the pharma industry.
how precisely could quantum computing transform and drive efficiencies for the pharma industry? The primary use is expected to involve accelerating the discovery, as well as research and development (R&D), of new drugs. Pistoia Alliance’s survey found that 82% of participants thought drug discovery and development would be the first to benefit from computing advancements.
One of QuPharm’s leaders Emir Roach agrees that “quantum simulations for the characterisation of molecular systems” is the most common use case being considered for quantum computing in drug R&D.
The ability to improve and accelerate drug discovery through quantum computing has the potential to drastically cut the often prohibitively high costs of bringing a drug to market, as well as reduce time to market.
The promise of quantum computing in life sciences does not end with drug R&D. Quantum computing might have early promise in “supply chain, manufacturing and financial risk optimisation problems – an area fairly disconnected from traditional R&D”, notes Roach. In addition, Roach notes that quantum computing complements artificial intelligence and machine learning (ML) being leveraged by the pharma industry to drive efficiencies.
The Pistoia Alliance’s 2030 vision report argues that quantum computing will actually revolutionise and drive advancements in ML and big data analysis.

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