Biopharma Companies May Have Most to Gain from Quantum Computing

Broad, lay person’s discussion of quantum computing’s potential in the biopharma industry.  Well worth the read; visit the original article at the “Read More…” or “Source…” links below.  Because Quantum is Coming.  Qubit.

Will Quantum Computing Transform Biopharma R&D?

Excerpts and salient points ~

+  As with any emerging technology, much of the potential value lies in how commercial enterprises apply new capabilities to improve core processes. We believe that quantum computing is very likely to transform the early stages of pharmaceutical R&D over the coming decades—and that it will provide near-term benefits as the technology matures. But its actual impact will depend in large part on how biopharma companies learn to use it. Aside from quantum computing hardware and software, keys to success will include talent, new ways of working, and partnerships. Early movers will almost certainly gain advantages that followers will have a tough time matching.

Of the many industries in which quantum computing is expected to have a far-reaching impact, biopharma is among the most promising. Quantum computing has the potential to significantly accelerate, enhance the quality of, and reduce the costs of data-rich R&D processes. The earliest uses are likely to involve the early stages of R&D (drug discovery and design), but the impact will extend into the later stages of R&D, thanks to higher clinical success rates from better early design.

Current Challenges in Pharmaceutical R&D 

+  The biopharma R&D process—from drug discovery to development—is a costly, lengthy, and risky endeavor. A new drug typically takes 10 to 15 years to progress from discovery to launch, and the capitalized costs exceed $2 billion. The success rate is less than 10% from entry into clinical development to launch. For these reasons, biopharma companies count on a few blockbuster drugs to realize payback of the more than $180 billion that the industry spends each year on R&D.

+  Computational tools are already key components of drug discovery and development. In many instances, they have significantly shortened the time companies spend on drug optimization. Researchers rely on high-performance computing—using powerful supercomputers or massive parallel processing—to perform in silico modeling of molecular structures, mapping of the interactions between a drug and its target, and simulations of the drug’s metabolism, distribution, and interactions in the wider human system. For example, computational chemistry algorithms aim to predict how a potential drug molecule will bind to specific target proteins, by modeling the binding energy of interaction.

+  Because many of these algorithms do not scale well with the number of atoms, however, they are often limited to relatively simple molecular structures. For example, IBM has estimated that fully and accurately modeling the base-state energy of the penicillin molecule, which is composed of 41 atoms, would require a classical computer with more transistors than there are atoms in the observable universe.

+  Biopharma should take the necessary steps now to prepare for quantum computing’s role in R&D. A sensible first step would be to conduct an assessment of the probable impact of quantum, featuring a workflow analysis to identify key friction points and solution mapping to determine whether these challenges fall into quantum-advantaged problem archetypes.

+  Companies can then identify “lighthouse” use cases and build out early. As they move forward, biopharma companies should look for early wins that will demonstrate the value of new approaches (such as a speed-up over previous, nonprobabilistic algorithms) to the rest of the organization. Quantum-inspired algorithms that emulate quantum concepts on classical hardware or specialized NISQ-era quantum circuits are good places to start.

+  Ultimately, quantum computing is likely to yield greater speed and efficiency in drug discovery, improvements in existing drugs, and faster development of new drugs. It should also accelerate time to market. The technology’s long-term potential is vast, but quantum computing also offers biopharma companies tangible benefits in the near term. Companies that want to play need to prepare for a quantum future now.

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Source:  BCG.  Matt Langione , Jean-François Bobier , Chris Meier , Sebastian Hasenfuss , and Ulrik Schulze,  Will Quantum Computing Transform Biopharma R&D?…

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