Accenture and quantum software firm 1QBit collaborated with Biogen to develop a first-of-its-kind quantum-enabled molecular comparison application that could significantly improve advanced molecular design to speed up drug discovery for complex neurological conditions such as multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and Lou Gehrig’s Disease.
Researchers at Accenture Labs collaborated with 1QBit to create the new application which enhances Biogen’s existing molecule comparison method with quantum capabilities. Molecular comparison is a crucial part of early-phase drug design and discovery, and involves intensive computational methods to review molecule matches and predict the positive effects of a therapy or drug while reducing negative side effects.
By leveraging quantum computing—a computing paradigm that has the potential to find the answer to complex business problems millions of times faster than classical computing by leveraging the properties of quantum physics—the new application provides novel insights into the molecular comparison process as well as much deeper contextual information about how, where and why molecules match. This is expected to enable scientists and researchers to analyze large collections of molecules more quickly and cost effectively.
“At Biogen, we’re always looking to harness cutting-edge technologies that push the boundaries of traditional pharmaceutical research to discover new treatments and cures for complex neuroinflammatory and neurodegenerative conditions,” said Govinda Bhisetti, head of Computational Chemistry, Biogen. “Collaborating with researchers at Accenture Labs and 1QBit made it possible to rapidly pilot and deploy a quantum-enabled application that has the potential to enable us to bring medicines to people faster.”
In just over two months, Accenture Labs, Biogen and 1QBit progressed from an exploratory conversation about quantum business experimentation to an enterprise-ready, quantum-enabled application that generates molecular comparison results with deeper insights about shared traits. “As quantum computers become more readily available, it will become easier for pharmaceutical companies to identify and develop new medicines for a wide range of diseases and conditions,” said Jeff Elton, Ph.D., managing director, Accenture Strategy, Life Sciences.
“Accenture Labs is focused on helping clients across multiple industries prepare for the arrival of mainstream quantum computing, which offers great potential to solve challenges in entirely new ways through quantum-enabled optimization, sampling, and machine learning algorithms,” said Marc Carrel-Billiard, senior managing director, Accenture Labs. “Through our collaboration with Biogen, 1QBit and our colleagues in the Accenture Life Sciences industry group, we have achieved a breakthrough that confirms the speed and accuracy of the quantum-enabled method for molecular comparison and takes another significant step toward improving the pharmaceutical industry’s drug discovery and design process to help deliver better patient and economic outcomes more efficiently.”
According to the Accenture Technology Vision 2017 companion survey of more than 5,400 business and IT executives, 40% of respondents are taking proactive steps to prepare for quantum computing, with 36% planning to invest in quantum capabilities in the next two years.
Playing a key role in Accenture’s overall Innovation Architecture, Accenture Labs helps clients harness emerging technologies to change the way the world works and lives. Given the potential for quantum computing to disrupt the computing landscape in the next two to five years, helping clients identify opportunities and begin working with quantum computing to stay ahead of the broader introduction and deployment of associated technologies is a key focus area. Accenture Labs has already identified more than 150 use cases with clients—from portfolio optimization in the financial services sector to production scheduling in manufacturing—where quantum computing would be relevant.