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Moderna and IBM to use AI, quantum computing on mRNA vaccines

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The companies Moderna and IBM announced Thursday that they are teaming up to use generative artificial intelligence and quantum computing to advance mRNA technology, a core development of the company’s blockbuster Covid vaccine.

In a statement, Moderna CEO Stephane Bancel said, “We are partnering with IBM to advance mRNA science and develop new AI models to prepare for the age of quantum computing and to bring these innovations to life.”

Moderna’s shares fell slightly on Thursday, while IBM’s shares were broadly flat.

The companies said they signed a deal for Moderna to access IBM’s quantum computing system. These systems could help accelerate the discovery and creation of new messenger RNA vaccines and therapeutics for Moderna, said Dr. Dario Gill, director of IBM Research.

IBM will also provide experts who can help Moderna scientists explore the use of quantum technology, the companies added. Unlike traditional computers, which store information as 0s or 1s, quantum computing is based on quantum physics. As such, these systems can solve problems too complex for today’s computers.

The deal also gives Moderna scientists access to IBM’s generative AI model known as MoLFormer. Generative AI refers to algorithms that can be used to create new content based on trained data.

The companies said Moderna will use IBM’s model to understand “the properties of potential mRNA pharmaceuticals” to design new classes of vaccines and therapeutics.

The deal comes as Moderna navigates the post-pandemic boom propelled by its mRNA Covid vaccine.

The Cambridge, Massachusetts-based company has made a name for itself with its messenger RNA technology, which allows human cells to produce proteins that initiate immune responses against certain diseases.

Moderna is looking to use its technology to target other diseases as the world emerges from the pandemic and demand for blockbuster Covid vaccines and treatments slows.

The company is already working on a vaccine that targets the respiratory syncytial virus and is developing a shot that can be combined with Merck’s immunotherapy Keytruda to target different types of cancer.

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

These efforts are in line with the recent AI boom, largely driven by the release of OpenAI’s ChatGPT. AI-powered chatbots answered questions in clear, concise prose and became an instant sensation after launch.

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

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