(SpectrumIEEE) Recent initiatives from pharmaceutical giants suggest the drug industry is paying more and more attention to quantum computing. For example, in January, the world’s largest private drug company, Boehringer Ingelheim, announced it would partner with Google to use quantum computing in pharmaceutical R&D. That same month, Roche, the world’s largest pharmaceutical company, revealed it was collaborating with Cambridge Quantum Computing to design quantum algorithms for early-stage drug discovery and development.
“Google’s view is that chemistry is the near-term application for quantum computing, and I buy that as well,” says Chad Edwards, head of strategy and product at Cambridge Quantum Computing in England.
Big pharma is no longer simply conducting exploratory studies into whether quantum computing might help them with the bottom line, Edwards says. He added that major pharma companies have formed a consortium known as QuPharm to work together pre-competitively to advance quantum computing uses for drug production. QuPharm in turn is collaborating with the Quantum Economic Development Consortium (QED-C), which is devoted to helping develop commercial applications for quantum science and engineering. It is also partnering with the Pistoia Alliance, a consortium seeking to drive innovation in life science R&D.
Moving beyond pharmaceuticals, an emerging frontier for quantum computing may be bioinformatics, tackling challenges such as gene sequencing and gene annotation.
“Handling bioinformatics problems with conventional computing, whose power increases just linearly, helps not at all,” Edwards says. “We hope that the exponential increases we see with quantum computing might help with bioinformatics.”