Quantum computing in healthcare and chemical industry
Over the last few decades, there has been a significant improvement in the technological advancement that humans have made. While they have a wide range of applications, one thing is common in all technologies; be faster, more efficient, and reduce man power. Quantum computing has already started to find its use in cryptography, simulation and machine learning. The applications of quantum computing will be of great use in the medicine and chemical industries.
Applications of quantum computing:
Healthcare industries are faced with challenges every day, like not being able to diagnose a patient quickly and at the right time. Especially in this COVID-19 situation, the virus was a novel one meaning new vaccines had to be developed to combat it. Quantum computing has various applications in the healthcare field, and can greatly reduce the time, cost and errors. One thing to understand is that, quantum computing does not innovate ideas; it enables existing ideas and practices to be executed quicker and at a much better accuracy.
According to Google, its 54-qubit quantum computer had the ability to complete a task in 200 seconds, which takes a traditional computer 10000 years!
So where does quantum computing fit in healthcare?
1.The electronic era: Our world is slowly yet continuously changing into an electronic world, with everything starting to be digitally accessible. The same goes for healthcare. Patient history, diagnoses, treatments, can all be stored conveniently under one roof. While this is already in practice, quantum computing has the advantage of storing data and compiling all of these data, and be accessible by everyone.
A small comparison; it was estimated that healthcare data in 2020 encompassed 44 zettabytes, while in 2013, it was 4.4 zettabytes!
2.Super fast drug design: Drug design is also one major factor where the healthcare currently lacks. For novel diseases, such as the COVID-19, it took a few months to design the appropriate drug and vaccine,by the time the virus had taken over the whole world. Speed is of essence here, but also is accuracy. Humans currently have the tendency to only meet one of the criteria, and that is of no use in healthcare. With a wide database of medicines, diseases and their interactions already available, quantum computing will be able to skim through all that and come up with potential candidates, that would either be missed by the human eye or would take months. For example, the Atomwise supercomputers are able to screen 100 million compounds everyday, which is impossible by a human or current traditional computers. They were also able to design an entirely new drug, in-silico, in just 46 days!
3. In-silico trials: In-silico trials are one of the key advantages of quantum computing. Have you ever thought about being able to test a drug or a medicine without worrying about the side effects or ethical issues? Quantum computing has the capability to do it! And it is actually in practice. Simulations such as HumMod, has a database of around 1500 equations and 6500 variables, that include our body temperature, fluids, reactions, that are required to design a drug. Quantum computing can use these simulations to run tests on a newly designed drug, without the risk of side effects. This can also make the process faster and more efficient. Just imagine what this will do for transplants! We can now test the compatibility of a patient by accessing their virtual data and testing it, and not worry about the transplant being rejected by the body.
Quantum computing can also pave the way for many more complete genome sequencing, and identifying genetic diseases at a much earlier stage. A testimony of how accurate quantum computing can be that it was able to identify a 1/10th mm cluster of cancer cells in a patient, which would have not been visible to the naked eye of a doctor. The shift towards computing can make healthcare accessible to everyone, and is more accurate, time saving, and cost efficient.
How can chemical industry make use of quantum computing?
Like the medicine industry, quantum computing has its use in chemical industries as well. Quantum computing can be used to design much better and environment friendly chemicals, used in fertilizers, and can also find potential ways to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions. Here are some areas where quantum computing will come in handy
- Quantum computers can greatly reduce the current simulation times required to model a chemical
- With the help of existing databases, new and less polluting fuels for industries can be tested at a much quicker rate
- Innovative replacements for petroleum and diesel as vehicle fuels, and thereby reducing harmful emission
While quantum computing is still a developing technique, and a lot of its capabilities are just in theory, just its basic applications will be much more helpful in the medicine and chemical fields, as they go hand-in-hand when creating new drugs or vaccines, and can reduce the damage in the future in case of pandemics or novel diseases.