Monday, May 23

Medicines: how quantum computing will revolutionize research

When we talk about quantum computing, the general public often sees only an obscure subject. However, this technology, still in the making, could revolutionize research, particularly that relating to drugs. Qubit Pharmaceuticals is already one of the world’s pioneers on this issue.

On January 21, 2021, President Emmanuel Macron announced an investment plan of 1.8 billion euros to support research in quantum computing, with the aim of France remaining competitive in this area.

This technology still requiring several years of fundamental research before reaching maturity, some companies are following suit in order not to miss the start of this promising new train.

And among the revolutionary applications that will be linked to future quantum computers, Qubit Pharmaceuticals explores one of these first applications: discovering molecules that will make up the drugs of tomorrow.

Already results around covid-19

This young company, which notably brings together Franco-American university partners, has already applied its know-how to two classes of molecules which are used in the composition of treatments to fight against covid-19. “We have ongoing programs in the areas of inflammation and cancer,” Dr. Robert Marino, CEO of Qubit Pharmaceuticals, told CNEWS.

And to continue: “The purpose of our platform is to allow in particular to “skip” the part of the tests in benches in the laboratories, thanks to the capacity to do everything on the computer. The idea being to go faster thanks to the calculations, before arriving at the clinical tests which will remain necessary to validate a treatment. You should know that today in terms of pharmacy, we are still at the stage of old-fashioned work where many elements are prepared with classic experiments”.

Query new machines

Above all, Qubit Pharmaceuticals is helping to lay the foundations of quantum computing by developing the way to interrogate these new machines. “If we have to reason by analogy for quantum computing, we are currently at the time when a conventional computer was made to work with punched cards, as in the 1950s and 60s. Also, there are several companies on this technology that each work with different platforms, so you have to adapt. We are working to demonstrate what are called “quantum advantages”, that is to say when this type of machine will prove to be more useful than conventional computing in solving certain problems, while being less energy-consuming”, sums up Professor Jean-Philippe Piquemal, from the theoretical chemistry laboratory at the Sorbonne University.

To achieve this, Qubit Pharmaceuticals revises and modernizes computer programs born several decades ago, in order to pose new equations to supercomputers and certain quantum models. It then remains to create a program capable of translating this equation into the language of a quantum computer, which is not binary. What the “quantum chemists” of Qubit Pharmaceuticals are preparing.

“With a quantum computer, we know that we can bet on an exponential gain in computing power due to its technology”, underlines Professor Jean-Philippe Piquemal. Because a few minutes can theoretically be enough for a quantum computer to solve a complex equation, when a supercomputer is likely to take several decades, or even much more to offer the same result. Enough to give a serious boost to research.

Finally, this company points out that the answer provided by a quantum computer must also be translated in order to be intelligible to scientists and the people who use them. “One day we will interrogate a quantum computer in the same way as a current computer, the idea being that software serves as interpreters”, prophesies Professor Jean-Philippe Piquemal. Ultimately, Qubit Pharmaceuticals could therefore offer a platform capable of supporting researchers, but also of possessing its own portfolio of drug candidates.

While the race around this technology is now launched at the global level, France intends to use its brains in the matter. “France is not late in the field of quantum computing. We even have an excellent breeding ground for research, in particular with many people trained in physics and chemistry. We have a real role to play”, concludes Dr Robert Marino.

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