How close is quantum computing to revolutionising medicine? | Europe's Health Tech Pioneers

How close is quantum computing to revolutionising medicine? | Europe's Health Tech Pioneers
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By Marta Rodriguez MartinezJames Thomas
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Quantum, the smallest amount of something in the universe, could spark the most significant revolution in medicine ever. How? By accelerating the discovery of new drugs through quantum computing.

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Jean-Philippe Piquemal is one of the key figures driving progress in the field of medicine with quantum computing.

As the director of the Theoretical Chemistry Laboratory at Sorbonne University and the French National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS), he is shedding light on how quantum pharmacy will offer hope for challenging illnesses.

Why quantum computing could accelerate the discovery of new drugs

Quantum computing operates on the principles of quantum mechanics, utilising qubits as its basic units instead of classical bits.

In classical computing, bits function as binary switches, capable of being either 0 or 1, akin to flipping a light switch on or off.

However, qubits exhibit a unique property called superposition, allowing them to exist in multiple states simultaneously, akin to magic switches.

This characteristic enables quantum computers to tackle complex problems much faster than their classical counterparts by executing numerous calculations concurrently.

The potential applications of this technology are vast, particularly in fields like medicine. Quantum computers could streamline tasks such as simulating molecular interactions in drug development or modeling intricate weather patterns, leading to quicker predictions and discoveries.

The goal is to push the digitalisation of chemistry and biology.
Jean-Philippe Piquemal
Director of the Theoretical Chemistry Laboratory, Sorbonne and CNRS

"This new science is based on new algorithms that are more powerful, faster, and stronger," said Piquemal.

"When we have these new computers, this new technology will enable achievements beyond our current reach".

In medicine, this translates into the ability to create molecules within the computer rather than in a laboratory.

"Quantum computing is highly effective for dealing with phenomena at the quantum mechanical level", explained Piquemal.

"When there's a genetic mutation, it can now be repaired, but the alteration must occur at the level of the gene sequence. And the sequence is essentially a sequence of atoms".

In search of personalised treatments

Piquemal adds that the primary objective is to discover drugs to treat illnesses that resist traditional treatments, such as certain cancers or viruses. 

"The scientist's dream would be to tailor the drug to each individual," he told Euronews.

However, the technology has not yet reached that stage.

"It's akin to the Sputnik moment. Breakthroughs are on the horizon. That would be a watershed moment. It will involve designs entirely facilitated by quantum computers," Piquemal said.

He estimates it will take from two to ten years to get there.

"The proof of principles is there," he added.

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