Survey shows life sciences professionals lack quantum computing understanding

Published: 16-Sep-2021

The survey, done by The Pistoia Alliance, also highlighted more than a third (36%) of respondents believe QC will impact the biopharma industry within the next five years

The Pistoia Alliance, a global, not-for-profit organisation which advocates for greater collaboration in life sciences R&D, has released results from a survey of life science professionals finding almost half (48%) classify their understanding of quantum computing (QC) technology at beginner level. This is followed by intermediate (29%), advanced (13%) and expert at less than ten percent (9%). These results show, the Alliance says, that despite significant noise around the potential of QC, few life science organisations or individuals are yet able to apply the technology.

“Quantum computing promises to have an enormous impact on many industries, including life sciences. We are already seeing clear near-term applications and uses that can help to advance the industry,” said Celia Merzbacher, Executive Director at QED-C. “In the last year alone, quantum computing hardware and software advances have been made, and access to technology via the cloud continues to improve. As a result, the barriers to entry in quantum computing for life sciences are lower and the number of collaborations are on the rise. This recent shift is seen in the survey results, where limited access to QC infrastructure as a barrier has decreased compared to a year ago.”

The barriers to launching QC projects remain similar to 2020, according to the alliance. The most cited issue is a lack of understanding and the inability to articulate valuable uses (35%), followed by lack of skills (29%), lack of access to infrastructure (15%), and cost (11%). The alliance’s QC Community of Interest (CoI), in partnership with QED-C and QuPharm, aims to address these challenges. The organisations seek to increase awareness at the C-suite level while raising funds to develop use cases and technologies for the life science sector.

The survey results also highlighted more than a third (36%) of respondents believe QC will impact the biopharma industry within the next five years, and almost half (44%) believe it will have an impact in the next five-ten years. These impact predictions are a slight increase over respondents’ answers last year. With life science specific use cases now emerging from QC companies and consortia, the alliance says, there are signs of rapid short-term development and adoption. For example, Menten AI has developed a drug discovery project to build proteins using D-Wave’s platform, as part of the Creative Destruction Lab’s Quantum bootcamp.

“Quantum computing has the potential to revolutionise scientific problem solving. Our global, collaborative network is perfectly placed to help the industry develop use cases and to de-risk investments in innovative technology. But the seismic shift it promises to deliver will not be possible if we can’t define the applications that gain buy-in from stakeholders and the C-suite," commented John Wise, consultant for the Pistoia Alliance.

This survey was conducted via a Pistoia Alliance webinar in July 2021, with 260 attendees from life science companies across the globe.

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