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Pharma giant Novo Nordisk sets grant for Danish quantum computer

By Dan O'Shea posted 23 Sep 2022

The Novo Nordisk Foundation Quantum Computing Programme, operated by Danish pharmaceutical giant Novo Nordisk, has established a DKK 1.5 billion (USD $203 million, roughly) grant to build a quantum computer over the next 12 years that will tackle life sciences projects and other problems.

The program will be based at the Niels Bohr Institute at the University of Copenhagen, which Novo Nordisk is partnering with on the project. Part of the grant is earmarked for establishing Quantum Foundry P/S, a partner company at the same site that will act as a fabrication facility to supply program researchers with materials and hardware.

The first seven years of the program will be spent developing hardware and other materials, and the following five years will be focused on scaling the computer. During that time, the Danish researchers will work with researchers from other institutions–the MIT in the U.S., Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands, the Technical University of Denmark, and Aarhus University and University of Toronto in Canada.

The Novo Nordisk Foundation said the computer will be “generally applicable,” though the company likely has its ambitions set on using the system to tackle a variety of pharmaceutical and life sciences projects.

“Within the life sciences, for example, we can accelerate development in personalized medicine by letting quantum computers process the enormous quantity of data available about the human genome and diseases,” said Lene Oddershede, Senior Vice President, Natural & Technical Sciences, Novo Nordisk Foundation. “This will make it easier to tailor optimal treatment. In the Quantum Computing Programme, physicists and engineers will work closely with researchers from the life sciences on a daily basis. The development of the technology will be guided by concrete biological experiments and problems, and this close interdisciplinarity is a crucial parameter for success.” 

Novo Nordisk is not alone in its pursuit of quantum computing to solve challenges in the life sciences sector. The industry is among the most targeted for quantum computing applications and use cases, as other pharma giants like GlaxoSmithLline have been investing in quantum technologies and pursuing their own projects, while a range of quantum firms, such as Rigetti, Polarisqb and Auransa, among others have been advancing applications.

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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