Almost half of life science professionals say their understanding of quantum computing is still “beginner level”

A limited understanding and ability to articulate use cases is holding back the development of quantum computing in life sciences, Pistoia Alliance and QED-C survey finds

Boston, 16 September, 2021, The Pistoia Alliance, a global, not-for-profit alliance that advocates for greater collaboration in life sciences R&D, has released new results from a survey of life science professionals finding that almost half classify their understanding of quantum computing (QC) technology at beginner level (48%) only. This is followed by intermediate (29%), advanced (13%) and expert at less than ten percent (9%). These results show that despite significant noise around the potential of QC, few life science organizations 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,” commented 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.”

Broadly, the barriers to launching QC projects remain similar to 2020. The most cited barrier is a lack of understanding of QC and the inability to articulate valuable uses (35%), followed by lack of skills (29%), lack of access to QC infrastructure (15%), and cost (11%). The Pistoia Alliance QC Community of Interest (CoI), in partnership with QED-C and QuPharm, is addressing these challenges. The organizations are seeking to increase awareness in the C-suite and raise funds to develop use cases and technologies that create value for the life sciences sector, underlying the Alliance’s commitment to advancing emerging technology in life sciences. Pistoia Alliance member companies in the QC field that are also helping to drive forward innovation, include Cambridge Quantum Computing, Zapata Computing, Molecular Quantum Solutions, QunaSys, Qubit Pharmaceuticals and QC Ware.

“Quantum computing is the next computational approach our organization is looking to utilize. It will help us to remove constraints in drug discovery and solve large optimization problems that have required too much time or computing power to previously progress,” commented a Senior Director of R&D IT from a top ten pharma company.

The survey results also highlighted that 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. The predicted near-term impact has slightly increased compared to last year’s results, which found 30% believe it will have an impact in the next five years, 52% in the next five-ten years. With life science specific use cases now emerging from QC companies and consortia, there are clear 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 revolutionize 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. “The Alliance brings together the expertise and skills needed to move adoption forward and we welcome interested parties to get involved in the discussions we are having about this transformational technology.”

This survey was conducted via a Pistoia Alliance webinar in July 2021, with 260 attendees from life science companies across the globe. Find out more about the Quantum Computing Community of Interest and help to steer future projects here. The Pistoia Alliance is also hosting a global knowledge sharing webinar for Japanese life science companies in which it will discuss QC – to register and find out more click here.


About The Pistoia Alliance:

The Pistoia Alliance is a global, not-for-profit members’ organization made up of life science companies, technology and service providers, publishers, and academic groups working to lower barriers to innovation in life science and healthcare R&D. It was conceived in 2007 and incorporated in 2009 by representatives of AstraZeneca, GSK, Novartis and Pfizer who met at a conference in Pistoia, Italy. Its projects transform R&D through pre-competitive collaboration. It overcomes common R&D obstacles by identifying the root causes, developing standards and best practices, sharing pre-competitive data and knowledge, and implementing technology pilots. There are currently over 150 member companies; members collaborate on projects that generate significant value for the worldwide life sciences R&D community, using The Pistoia Alliance’s proven framework for open innovation.

About the Quantum Economic Development Consortium
The Quantum Economic Development Consortium (QED-C) is an industry-driven consortium managed by SRI International and supported by the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). Membership includes more than 120 US companies from across the supply chain and more than 40 academic institutions and other stakeholders. The consortium seeks to enable and grow the quantum industry and associated supply chain. For more about QED-C, visit and follow us on Twitter @The_QEDC.


Media Contacts:

Spark Communications

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Tanya Randall

The Pistoia Alliance

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