Tanisha Bassan

@Tanisha.Bassan

Quantum Computers Disrupting Healthcare

Quantum Computing…sounds mind blowing already.

It seems like another huge buzzword I get it, but whats all the hype? Why are super smart people spending their time developing and researching quantum computers?

Companies like Google, Microsoft, IBM and super successful startups such as D-Wave and Rigetti Computing are investing millions and millions of dollars into quantum computers.

Why? Because they are building the world’s most powerful computer to ever exist.

Before I tell you how Quantum Computing will disrupt the healthcare industry, lets get you caught up with what the heck it is.

In short Quantum Computers use phenomenons called superposition and entanglement to create qubits with special computational power determined by the laws of quantum mechanics.

Qubits are unlike binary bits, superposition allows them to be in a state of 0’s AND 1. Think of it as being in all positions at the same time between 0 and 1. Every additional qubit increases the power by 2^n so now calculate how much computational power you can have with 50 qubits (2⁵⁰). THATS INSANE!

Now entangled qubits are even more strange, they can be in a system where all qubits are interconnected (which is extremely hard to do) without any tangible force between them. If one qubit is measured then it directly affects all other entangled qubits. If you don’t realize how crazy this is let me put it into context, measuring one qubit will automatically reveal the outcome of its entangled pair which means for one qubit measured you have 2 qubits worth of information.

If you still don’t understand click here to get a better intro to Quantum Computing.

So all this power, how is it really going to help us?

Quantum Computing in Drug Discovery:

Classical computers are not going anywhere and are great for our household work however they suck at solving some really hard optimization problems. These problems take exponential time to find the best solution out of many possible outcomes. For example, the classic traveling salesman problem. I want to discuss the problem with simulating chemical interactions between molecules.

This an age old problem that cannot be simulated on a classical computer. But with enough computational power, it is possible to find the best drug-comparisons for various diseases and viruses.

For example, researchers spend on average 12 years comparing the interactions and effects of different drugs on a range of diseases to determine the best medication. This process can be significantly shortened with quantum computers that have enough computational power to actually envision all possible outcomes. This could help find solutions more efficiently and quickly, reduce the cost of creating medication in R&D. They can also find underlying solutions to diseases such as Alzheimer's that we weren’t able to discover without proper computing power.

This is a huge breakthrough for the pharmaceutical industry, imagine curing cancer for good and having the solution for every possible disease in an instant.

Fundamentally Nature is quantum mechanical on the most basic molecular level thus using a quantum computer to solve such problems will be the most optimal.

“Nature is quantum, goddamn it! So if we want to simulate it, we need a quantum computer.”

This disruption in drug discovery means:

  • Faster drug discovery and production
  • More precise drugs
  • Fewer drugs with side effects
  • Cures for uncurable diseases
  • No more guesswork
  • Better understanding of the human body on a molecular level

Quantum Computing in Genomics:

Another huge advantage of quantum computing is in the area of genome sequencing. Genome sequencing is just determining the order of A,C,T,G (the nucleotides that make up the basic structure of the DNA) in our DNA.

Next generation sequencing methods with companies such as Illumina have reduced costs and error rates and their methods allow faster outputs however they still need a reference genome to compare the order of nucleotides.

Biomarkers are one way to help classify patients and determine diagnoses for various genetic related diseases. Today’s methods take the DNA apart in small pieces and compare it to a reference genome to find mutations in certain genes but this is a long process and requires a lot of data scientists to operate the whole process.

For an in-depth explanation on how genomes are sequenced visit Illumina to learn how they sequence whole genomes

Genome sequencing is extremely difficult because creating a representation of a person’s whole DNA strand requires a lot of computational power and storage. Illumina and many other companies are making this process a lot faster and error free however a quantum computer with massive computational potential can completely change the way genomes are sequenced.

A quantum computer can assemble and sort through all possible gene variants at the same time and instantly find all nucleotide pairs making the whole process exponentially shorter.

Quantum Computing Genome Sequencing:

  • Faster and more accurate sequencing
  • Removes the need for reference genome comparisons
  • Biomarker discovery, finding disease related mutations with better accuracy

This is all leads to an even greater application in healthcare, Personalized Medicine.

Personalized medicine is using the technological advancements in genomics to create tailored treatment plans specific to every patient.

The cost of sequencing genomes is rapidly falling (from $3B to $100) and it is becoming increasingly easier for people to have their DNA sequenced. The future is not far for personalized medicine where everyone’s DNA will be decoded and used to create the best medical plan for each person.

Genome sequencing will create a lot of data, as more people’s DNA is recorded and added to a database of human genomes. This massive amount of data can be revolutionary for understanding our genetic makeup at a deeper level and also finding unforeseen patterns of diseases.

A lot of storage space and processing power will be needed to record every single person’s genome. We will need access to huge a processing power that is able to compute and make comparisons with 7 billion people’s DNA.

Hmmm…I wonder we can find such MASSIVE amounts of computational power?

Quantum Computing, boom.

Utilizing quantum computing technology will enable us to have the processing power for creating personalized medicine for everyone on earth. A lot of data will be created, this data can be transformative for the growth of healthcare around the world. Quantum computers will unleash the necessary means to process and understand what all the data means not only for healthcare but other industries as well.

With the help of quantum computers and genomic technology, huge disruption is underway for the healthcare industry, medicine will be forever changed.

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