Moderna and IBM use AI and quantum computing for mRNA vaccines

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Modern And IBM are teaming up to use generative artificial intelligence and quantum computing to advance mRNA technology, the development at the core of the company’s blockbuster Covid vaccine, the companies announced Thursday.

“We are excited to be collaborating with IBM to develop novel AI models to advance mRNA science, prepare for the era of quantum computing and prepare our company for these disruptive technologies,” said Stephane Bancel, CEO of Moderna, in an explanation.

Shares of Moderna fell slightly on Thursday, while shares of IBM were roughly flat.

The companies said they signed an agreement for Moderna to access IBM’s quantum computing systems. according to dr Dario Gil, director of IBM research, these systems could help accelerate Moderna’s discovery and development of new messenger RNA vaccines and therapies.

IBM will also provide experts who can help Moderna scientists explore the use of quantum technologies, the companies added. Unlike traditional computers, which store information as either zeros or ones, quantum computing depends on quantum physics. This allows these systems to solve problems that are too complex for today’s computers.

As part of the agreement, Moderna scientists will also gain access to IBM’s generative AI model known as MoLFormer. Generative AI describes algorithms that can be used to create new content based on the data it was trained on.

The companies said Moderna will use IBM’s model to understand “the properties of potential mRNA drugs” and develop a new class of vaccines and therapies.

The agreement comes as Moderna navigates its post-pandemic boom fueled by its mRNA Covid vaccine.

Based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, the company became a household name for its messenger RNA technology, which teaches human cells to produce a protein that triggers an immune response against a specific disease.

Moderna is trying to use this technology to fight other diseases as the world emerges from the pandemic and demand for blockbuster Covid vaccines and treatments wanes.

The company is already working on the development of a respiratory syncytial virus vaccine and a syringe that, in combination with Merck’s Keytruda immunotherapy, can target various types of cancer.

The new agreement also comes as IBM ramps up its investments in AI with new partnerships. Earlier this year, the Armonk, New York-based company announced a deal with NASA to help build AI foundational models to advance climate science.

These efforts align with a recent AI boom, fueled in large part by OpenAI’s release of ChatGPT. The AI-supported chatbot answers questions in clear, concise language and caused a stir right after its launch.

ChatGPT launched an AI arms race, raising questions about the full extent of artificial intelligence’s capabilities and risks.

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