You know Moderna as one of the world’s chief makers of vaccines used against COVID-19. This time, the renowned vaccine brand has tapped on IBM to accelerate and advance vaccine development through generative artificial intelligence and quantum computing. 

mRNA science

Stephane Bancel, Moderna’s chief executive officer, said the company is excited to partner with IBM to develop novel AI models to further advance messenger RNA or mRNA science, gear themselves up for the era of quantum computing, and prepare their business for these game-changing innovations and technologies.

mRNA vaccines work by introducing a piece of mRNA corresponding to a viral protein. This is usually a tiny piece of protein found on the virus’s outer membrane. By utilizing this mRNA, cells can produce the viral protein. 

Remember, people who get an mRNA vaccine are not exposed to the virus nor become infected with the virus by the vaccine. mRNA, scientifically known as messenger ribonucleic acid, pertains to a  single-stranded RNA molecule corresponding to a gene’s genetic sequence. A ribosome reads it in the process of protein synthesis.

“Since our inception, we have always strived to be at the forefront of cutting-edge technology, leveraging innovations to deliver the greatest possible impact to people through mRNA medicines,” Bancel added. “We are aiming for breakthrough advances with quantum computing, so we are investing now in building a quantum-ready workforce to be fully prepared to harness the power of this technology.”

The partnership

Under this new deal, Moderna will gain access to the quantum computing systems of IBM to help accelerate the former’s discovery and creation of new mRNA vaccines and therapies. 

Furthermore, the multinational technology corporation will also provide experts who can offer help to Moderna scientists as they explore utilizing quantum technologies. Quantum computing, unlike traditional computing technologies that store information in binary, anchors on quantum physics. This allows these systems to resolve problems too complicated for today’s standard computers.

Plus, scientists at Moderna will also gain access to MoLFormer, the generative AI model of IBM. Generative AI describes algorithms that can be utilized to form new content based on the information they have been trained on. The vaccine maker will use this model to understand the potential mRNA medicines’ attributes, and design a new class of therapies and vaccines.

Dr. Dario Gil, Senior Vice President and Director of IBM Research, said, “IBM’s purpose is to be the catalyst to make the world work better, perfectly exemplified by this partnership with Moderna. We are witnessing a revolution in the world of computing, driven by extraordinary advances in AI and quantum computing… We are also excited to work with Moderna to help prepare their scientists in the knowledge and use of IBM’s industry-leading quantum computing technologies with the goal of accelerating the discovery and creation of new therapeutics.”

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