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article imageQuantum computing initiative advances drug discovery

By Tim Sandle     Jun 29, 2017 in Technology
Quantum computing holds the answer for treating several serious neurological diseases, as well as offering solutions to the personalized medicine initiative. New research from Accenture, 1QBit and Biogen has delivered promising results.
In a powerful example of harnessing quantum computing power for medicine, Accenture, who focus on partnering companies to develop strategy, digital, technology and operations, together with the quantum software firm 1QBit have collaborated with the U.S.-based biotechnology company Biogen to develop a quantum-enabled molecular comparison application.
Quantum computing offers considerably greater computing power than conventional computers can offer. Quantum computing use elements of quantum mechanics to complete previously impossible calculations in a fraction of a second. With a binary computer (which all modern computer devices are based on), these function using a series of '0' and '1' states ('off' and 'on') for storing individual data bits. These '0' and '1' configurations only exist in one state at a time. In contrast, a quantum computer can have bits at '0' or '1' at the same time (here quantum computer use a “qubit” — a quantum bit, an analog to the bits in a standard computer). Through this quantum computers can harness the power of atoms and molecules in the quantum realm to perform advanced memory and processing tasks.
How to quantum computers work?
Given the considerable potential power of quantum computers, such systems offer big benefits to the medical and biotechnology fields, especially in relation to finding new cures to diseases.
While there have been a number of medical advances in the past decade, a number of serious neurological illnesses remain unsolved and, in many cases, are seeing an increase in incidences worldwide. Such diseases include multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and Lou Gehrig’s Disease (otherwise known as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis). Each of these is a disease of the nervous system where structural, biochemical or electrical abnormalities occur in the brain, spinal cord or other nerves, leading to a range of devastating symptoms. These disease tend to result in paralysis and muscle weakness or confusion, pain and altered levels of consciousness.
The new quantum computing application, pioneered by Accenture and partners, is breaking impressive new ground and the aim is to accelerate advanced molecular design and result in faster drug discovery for treatment of complex neurological conditions. This process should lead to novel therapies for patients with different neurological conditions. Given the complexity of the conditions and the variety of candidate molecules, only quantum computing can process the complex data in a reasonably fast time frame (computationally this is a very difficult problem).
This matching of candidate molecules is only part of what quantum computing is about in the medicinal context, for the computing power can also be used to determine how, where and why molecules match, thus adding greater precision and a level of understanding. This deeper understanding is core to drug development. An additional enhancement for the drug discovery process will also arise through machine learning algorithms, which will further speed up the drug molecule screening process.
The types of quantum computers likely to achieve this are adiabatic quantum computers. Adiabatic quantum computation is a form of quantum computing that utilizes the adiabatic theorem to perform calculations. This is a complex mathematical approach which means a quantum mechanical system when subjected to gradually changing external conditions adapts its functional form; however, when it is subjected to rapidly varying conditions there is insufficient time for the functional form to adapt. This means the spatial probability density remains unchanged, which relates to the way the machine solves problems,. The process steps for Adiabatic quantum computation are:
Encode your problem (in terms of a Boolean SAT problem),
Prepare initial state of qubits (program your problem),
Annealing process (slowly change from initial to final state),
Measure the answer.
This type of quantum computer could be fully-functional within the next two to five years. Such systems are being tested out at the Accenture Labs, and the potential computer power promises a major advancement in the hunt for neurological disease treatment.
More about Accenture, quantum computing, Neurological disorders, neurodegenerative disease, qubits
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