IBM to install its first private-sector quantum computer at Cleveland Clinic

IBM's quantum computing system
A new partnership between IBM and Cleveland Clinic will apply artificial intelligence, cloud and quantum computing technologies to medical research. (IBM)

Longtime partners IBM and Cleveland Clinic are at it again: The pair announced the launch of yet another collaboration Tuesday, this one a 10-year team-up bringing IBM’s quantum computing systems to the hospital’s newest healthcare research center.

The Discovery Accelerator partnership will be based in the clinic's Global Center for Pathogen Research & Human Health, which launched in February with a $500 million investment from the hospital and the state of Ohio. The research center is focused on identifying and preparing for the world’s next pandemic through genomic and sociological research and the development of new diagnostics, treatments, vaccines and digital tools.

That’s where IBM comes in. Its artificial intelligence, cloud-based and quantum computing tools will hugely speed up the process of compiling and analyzing all the data necessary to achieve the center’s goals: using robotics and AI, for instance, to synthesize new molecules and advanced computing techniques to identify potential drug targets.

Through the partnership, Cleveland Clinic will become the first facility outside of IBM’s own to host Big Blue's Quantum System One. The supercomputer, which was unveiled two years ago and is housed in a temperature-controlled glass cube, is the company's fastest and most advanced to date, with the ability to perform complex computations thousands of times faster than a traditional computer—if the latter can process them at all—and requires only a fraction of the memory to do so, per IBM.

IBM has also pledged to install the first iteration of its next piece of quantum hardware, expected in 2023, on the Cleveland campus.

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"The COVID-19 pandemic has spawned one of the greatest races in the history of scientific discovery—one that demands unprecedented agility and speed,” Arvind Krishna, IBM’s CEO and chairman, said. “At the same time, science is experiencing a change of its own—with high performance computing, hybrid cloud, data, AI, and quantum computing being used in new ways to break through long-standing bottlenecks in scientific discovery.”

The new accelerator is the latest in a long line of partnerships between IBM and Cleveland Clinic. In the last decade alone, they teamed up to apply the since-retired Watson for Oncology platform to genomics and cancer research and later took on a five-year project to build out a data analytics platform that would take better advantage of the hospital’s decades’ worth of patient data to improve both clinical care and overall population health.

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The partners aren't the first to dabble in applying quantum computing to medical research. Earlier this year, Google and Boehringer Ingelheim joined forces to build out a Quantum Lab for the Big Pharma's research and development.

Hot on their heels were Roche and U.K.-based Cambridge Quantum Computing, which will use the latter's supercomputing software to speed the former's Alzheimer's disease research and drug development.