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Exploring Quantum Computing in the Life Sciences Industry 

Quantum computing opens the door for solving far more complex problems than our current supercomputers can. Using quantum mechanics, these new computers can complete challenging tasks faster than conventional machines.  

Quantum computing may prove extremely useful in the life sciences industry for applications such as running complex biomedical simulations, optimizing complex tasks, and speeding up R&D. 

Below, we discuss a general overview of quantum computing, its applications to the life sciences industry, and how firms can prepare today. 

The Next Big Thing 

On a more technical level, the difference between today’s classical computers and quantum computers is how they store data. Classical computers store information bits. These units of binary text are stored as a one or zero. Multiple bits combine to form larger data blocks. At a basic level, they might appear as a combination 10010. 

Quantum computers differ in that they use qubits. Now, data can be stored as a 1, 0, or both at the same time. This strange position where the information is stored as both is called the quantum state. Essentially, qubits can function beyond basic binary states, which allows the quantum computer to easily deal with extremely complex simulations. 

An intuitive example is a problem where there lies a key under 1 of 50 cups and we must find it. A classical computer would turn over each cup one at a time, albeit at the speed of a supercomputer, until the key was found. The problem, however, becomes apparent as the number of cups increases. 

With more, the classical computer takes longer to find the key because it searches sequentially. This is where quantum computers step in. By utilizing qubits and other special properties of physics, every cup can be turned over at practically the same time. 

Quantum computers are 158 million times faster than today’s most advanced classical supercomputer. The implications of this are staggering for firms of all industries, especially those in the life sciences. 

Life Science Applications 

The highly competitive nature of the life sciences industry means that gaining any sort of edge can be immensely valuable. Although quantum computing is just beginning to appear in the market, firms are already pushing to incorporate it into their research and development with over 80% predicting a commercial impact in the next decade. 

Firms can apply the power of quantum computing toward any number of complex simulations, regressions, models, and calculations. From quickly identifying the impacts of specific chemicals on protein structures to optimizing and reducing risk in clinical trials, the benefits are incredibly diverse. Nearly any task that was previously restricted by computation runtime or complexity can hopefully now be addressed. 

The pace of innovation in pharmaceutical, biomedical, and general healthcare R&D pushes for more capable modeling and visualization tools like quantum computing. Listed here are a few considerations that firms should have to prepare for when this technology becomes fully commercialized: 

Fiscal Planning: Firms should have detailed plans for internal operations that include budgeting for data modernization. Upgrading computer systems often requires significant investment and while quantum computing within the cloud may be a cheaper alternative to an on-site installation, some firms may prefer direct access. Regardless of cloud versus on-site computing, firms should plan for these potential costs to at least determine the feasibility of utilizing this technology. 

Potential Projects: Firms that intend to invest in quantum computers should actively anticipate their uses. R&D can be a long process, so it’s important to fully understand how the new computing capabilities will impact future product vision. Companies can now plan to tackle larger and more complex tasks that were previously impractical. This means that firms should stay up to date on advancements in the field to consistently forecast how ambitious projects can be. 

Hiring: Difficulties sourcing labor in the tech labor market may serve as a warning for firms that are looking to invest in new technologies. Firms need a properly trained workforce to fully realize the benefits of quantum computing. Consequently, HR departments should be proactive with talent acquisition and retention by utilizing services like staffing agencies. This may also include upskilling current employees who demonstrate eagerness to transition within the firm or learn new skills. 

Quantum Computing: Life Sciences Industry 

While quantum computing is a technology area that is still maturing, its capabilities are significant enough for firms to follow advancements closely. The applications listed above for the life sciences are barely the tip of the iceberg for the potential impact that these computers will have. 

Firms should not expect quantum computers to be commercialized in the same sense as classical computers, however. Our laptops and desktop computers will most likely continue to be standard for the same tasks that they’re used for now. Quantum computers will likely only be used for complex business functions because of their cost. Firms that capitalize on this new technology can expect exciting doors to open for tasks that were previously infeasible.  

For more on emerging technology and trends in the life sciences, chat with us today. 

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Contributions from Jake Park-Walters

Tags: Data & Analytics, Life Sciences Trends, R&D Data Strategy