Life sciences leaders are increasingly embracing the features and opportunities in the metaverse, according to a new report out of Accenture.

The Life Sciences Technology Vision 2022 report takes a look at what has been dubbed the “metaverse continuum,” defined as a range of “digitally-enhanced worlds, realities and business models” that will “revolutionize life and enterprise.” These evolving technologies include blockchain, artificial intelligence, non-fungible tokens and smart devices, among others.

The report found that 85% of biopharma execs expect the metaverse to have a positive impact on the industry. More than 90% of leaders also noted that their company will be “pivoting” in response to the big changes the metaverse is bringing, while 97% said that AI is becoming pervasive among their businesses.

“The evolution of this year’s report is a culmination of recent trends we’ve called out that we’re describing as the metaverse continuum,” Shalu Chadha, global life sciences technology lead at Accenture, said. “We also looked at biopharma and medtech clients independently reflecting – polling over 100 executives across eight countries on what that metaverse continuum looks like.”

Importantly, Chadha added that the metaverse continuum also involves an individual’s “ability to participate in a persistent shared experience spanning the spectrum of real world and the fully virtual.”

She pointed to an example of that – a metaverse idea known as the ‘Meta Tumor Board,’ which would involve bringing together like-minded HCPs and other medical professionals to discuss cancer cases and figure out the best course of action for an individual patient’s treatment.

“What would it be like if they could all come together [for a meeting] without stepping away from their home office or needing to travel?” Chadha asked. “More importantly, each of them would have access to patient information, images and blood tests, all made available in a secure ability.”

A ‘Meta Tumor Board’ would be beneficial for patients, too, according to the study, as patient avatars could join in on meetings to better understand their care journey. Chadhu believes these types of initiatives could ultimately accelerate the speed to drug discovery. She says these innovations could “make it possible in places that never happened before,” due to the culmination of various technologies like augmented reality or virtual reality.

The report honed in on four technology trends that the researchers consider top-of-mind in the metaverse continuum. 

The first is WebMe, a platform that transforms data ownership among individuals. The future will likely entail new digital devices linked to daily at-home objects that are also connected to the metaverse and provide health data.

The second feature is Programmable World, the idea of technology being linked to physical environments – or programming the physical environment. That includes AR, 5G, ambient computing and 3D printing. 

The third aspect is Unreal, which involves synthetic data, rather than real-world data, being used to define AI models. “This realistic (yet unreal) data can be shared, maintaining the same statistical properties while protecting confidentiality and privacy,” the authors note.

Finally, Computing the Impossible refers to new quantum computing machines emerging. New, higher levels of computational power can accelerate and transform R&D processes.

But the major takeaway concluding the report is that the authors expect the metaverse to expand and advance quickly – and believe it’s something companies will need to capitalize on sooner than later: “Companies need to act now or find themselves operating in worlds designed by, and for, someone else,” the report states.

“Will it be flawed and evolving? Absolutely,” Chadhu said. “But do you want to see the metaverse world defined in front of you, or do you want to actually be part of defining the rules and determining what world you want to play in and how? The question is the ‘if and how,’ rather than whether the metaverse is here to stay.”