2021 Could Be Year of Quantum Drug Discovery
(NextPlatform) There are several signs that a number of important collaborations between quantum vendors and major biotech companies will be announced in 2021. If pharma comes out as the early adopter expect the entire quantum hardware market to explode sooner than anyone would have expected.
Boehringer Ingelheim’s partnership with Google is in front of a pharma trend we expect to begin this year.
For now, however, most pharma companies include quantum as one of several emerging trends they’re paying attention to. Roche has a general article about quantum on its website. Novartis CEO lists quantum along with other tech trends like telemedicine and counts it is off on the horizon. Others have been quiet entirely on the subject.
This author predicts we will see stake-in-the-ground quantum computing in-house quantum labs at Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson, Novartis, and Merck, among others. More specifically, these will be separate from AI focused R&D labs. While Google took the lead on Boehringer Ingelheim’s quantum collaboration, we expect to see IBM take a significant role in other commercial pharma collaborations.
This means more internal labs dedicated to refining relevant algorithms, which could spur the industry ahead in the quantum computing space. It also incentivizes the quantum hardware vendors to understand how potential high-value users will want to interact with their devices in terms of programmatic stack, on-prem, and via cloud interfaces.
There have been a growing number of academic papers on the algorithmic sides of molecular dynamics and related algorithms and applications relevant to biotech, but the actual enterprise mission from the large pharma companies has been scant, lumping quantum in with other broad initiatives like AI integration, for example. In 2021 and ahead, however, the impetus and funding are in place, especially with COVID in the picture, for more forward-looking technologies that emphasize time to result—something that quantum computing has going, if it can be proven at reasonable scale and accuracy.
Early experiments are important for the burgeoning quantum industry but molecular dynamics simulations running on traditional high performance computing systems are set to be the norm for the next several years at the very least. The performance of these applications have increased dramatically with GPU and other accelerators, along with the scalability and efficiency.