Quantum Sensing for Biology (QSB)


Description of the project

Modern physics has contributed to the development of powerful instruments and diagnostic tools for biology and medicine, with a direct impact on both our well being and life expectancy. Today, it is timely to ask if the novel field of quantum information is ready to provide new methods for the life sciences. This project makes a step in this direction, introducing non-invasive quantum techniques for experimental biology, with potential applications to biomedical imaging. My goal is to show how quantum correlations (e.g., entanglement) can be exploited to realize a fully non-invasive form of quantum spectroscopy, which can be safely applied to fragile materials, such as photo-degradable biological samples (DNA/RNA) or in-vivo human tissues. These objectives are not met in today’s biology labs, where UV-light photometry heavily damages DNA/RNA samples, or in public hospitals, where X-ray scans expose patients to significant radiation doses. The basic rationale behind the use of quantum correlations relies on their superior capacity to detect small variations in the absorption properties of the materials, even when only a few photons are employed. By exploiting this remarkable feature, I study the possibility of non-invasive testing of biological samples. My central task is the design of a practical model of a quantum-enhanced photometer which is fully based on continuous-variable systems. The realization of such an instrument would allow for real-time continuous measurements of organic molecules and nucleic acids without any photo-degradation.

This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 745727 (Marie Skłodowska-Curie Global Fellowship)




Department of Computer Science, University of York
Deramore Lane, York, YO10 5GH, United Kingdom

Email  gae.spedalieri (at) york | ac | uk

Short bio

I am a biologist (PhD 2010) and computer scientist (PhD 2016) actively working in the field quantum technologies. My background is both experimental (molecular biology) and theoretical (quantum information theory). My overall aspiration is to apply quantum physics to improve the techniques and instrumentation that are currently used in biology and medicine.

Keywords: quantum sensing, quantum metrology, quantum hypothesis testing


Selected publications

  • Symmetric and asymmetric discrimination of bosonic loss: Toy applications to biological samples and photo-degradable materials
    Gaetana Spedalieri, Stefano Pirandola, Samuel L. Braunstein, Phys. Rev. A 98, 053836 (2018)

    Also presented as a talk at the APS March meeting Boston, USA (4 March 2019)

  • Thermal quantum metrology in memoryless and correlated environments
    Gaetana Spedalieri, Cosmo Lupo, Samuel L. Braunstein, Stefano Pirandola, Quantum Sci. Technol. 4, 015008 (2019)
  • Discrimination of discord in separable Gaussian states
    Gaetana Spedalieri, Stefano Pirandola, Samuel L. Braunstein, Proc. SPIE 10771, Quantum Communications and Quantum Imaging XVI, 1077119 (18 September 2018)

    Presented at Quantum Communications and Quantum Imaging XVI, SPIE Optical Engineering + Applications, 19 - 23 August 2018, San Diego CA, United States

  • Channel Simulation in Quantum Metrology
    Riccardo Laurenza, Cosmo Lupo, Gaetana Spedalieri, Samuel L. Braunstein, Stefano Pirandola, Quantum Meas. Quantum Metrol. 5, 1-12 (2018)
  • Theory of channel simulation and bounds for private communication
    S. Pirandola, S. L. Braunstein, R. Laurenza, C. Ottaviani, T. P. W. Cope, G. Spedalieri, L. Banchi, Quantum Sci. Technol. 3, 035009 (2018)