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  /  Covid   /  Decoding the Cure for COVID-19 Using Quantum Computing
Quantum Computing

Decoding the Cure for COVID-19 Using Quantum Computing

Quantum computing, a promising field that adopts quantum physics principles, is now exploring the area of finding a possible cure against the COVID-19. Given the data about existing pharmaceuticals compounds and research on the new potential compounds, finding the right remedy is like a needle in a haystack. Quantum computing, along with Artificial Intelligence and machine learning algorithms, can speed up the process and therefore prove to be the next significant revolutionary phase in the drug discovery world.

Before COVID-19, quantum computing was generally utilized in the field of mathematical computation and data prediction. However, in this crisis times, humans have realized that there is always a scope for improvement and development of existing modern technologies for the benefit of the human race. As quantum computing is used to predict the spread of the coronavirus, it recently has mapped the outer “spike” protein of the COVID-19 virus in a timeline of 12 days. And this could not have been achieved in the past century, for instance, a similar structural analysis for HIV took four years in the 1980s. This shall not only help us to identify possible useful drug compounds but also sift through the existing database at faster speed with a fraction of costs involved in drug research and discovery.

Drug discovery entrepreneur Prof. Noor Shaker speculated that “Whenever a disease is identified, a new journey into the “chemical space” starts seeking a medicine that could become useful in contending diseases. The journey takes approximately 15 years and costs $2.6 billion, and begins with a process to filter millions of molecules to identify the promising hundreds with high potential to become medicines. Around 99% of selected leads fail later in the process due to inaccurate prediction of behavior and the limited pool from which they were sampled.”

Recently, a group of researchers from The Penn State University discovered methods to speed up the drug discovery process using a new field of quantum machine learning. The Canadian free quantum computing consulting services D-Wave Systems is offering free cloud computing time on its quantum computer D-Wave to COVID-19 researchers to amplify the research processes. Using quantum annealing process, d-Wave could conceivably help researchers simulate molecular interactions between coronavirus and its target cells, or simulate the spread of the COVID-19 disease in complicated settings. Meanwhile, the quantum computer IBM Summit is helping researchers by analyzing small-molecule compounds in few days as compared to standard computing systems that would have taken months for similar results.

Typically, the test for possible pharmaceutical drug solution is done on trial and error basis. Compounds have to be developed and tested as predicting their performance and capability, and the likelihood of being safe for humans was not possible. This made the testing phase as long, and cumbersome process, without any projection of future complications that might surface once the compound or molecule is deployed at scale. This can further wear the cost/benefit ratio of the field.

The best part about quantum computing is that it can cut down the time and cost by switching this phase from the expensive and time-inefficient laboratory process (in-vitro) we utilize today, to computer simulations (in-silico). Plus, it minimizes the need to build a supercomputer operating on mathematical calculations and limited by the binary algorithm of 0 and 1 (compared to the value of a qubit) to power such extensive research. One simply needs to enter raw data and screen the chemical world for solutions. Though the priority is now on finding a cure for coronavirus caused by COVID-19, quantum computing can accelerate medical research in the future pharmaceutical industry too. Maybe then we can see major improvements in end-to-end in-silico drug discovery and the discovery of procedures to fabricate the drug.