Roche taps into quantum computing software for Alzheimer's disease research

Alzheimer’s disease has proven to be stubbornly difficult to unravel, but Roche aims to tap into a new tool that promises to accelerate the process: the quantum computer. 

Through a multi-year partnership with the U.K.’s Cambridge Quantum Computing, the Swiss drugmaker’s task force plans to explore the nascent technology’s potential for designing and delivering new therapeutic compounds. 

The partnership follows a similar endeavor launched earlier this year between Google and Boehringer Ingelheim, which plans to staff its own quantum laboratory as part of the Big Pharma’s digital transformation. Google has also been developing its own quantum hardware, in the Sycamore processor, which it says has outperformed so-called “classical” supercomputers.

While typical machines use the binary system of 1s and 0s to solve equations, quantum computers list an individual piece of information as 1, 0 or the potential for it to be either value at the same time. It is expected that this method will lend itself well to modeling molecular interactions.

Roche will employ CQC’s quantum chemistry software platform EUMEN, a set of algorithms designed to simulate how atoms behave when absorbing energy, and used to form new pharmaceuticals and other specialty materials.

“For many years quantum computing has held out great promise for discovering new therapeutics that aid humanity in fighting some of the most devastating and damaging diseases,” CQC CEO Ilyas Khan said. “We are pleased that due to the careful and pioneering efforts of our research teams, some of this promise is starting to come to fruition.”

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Last December, CQC raised $45 million in financing from investors including Honeywell Ventures, IBM Ventures, JSR Corporation, Serendipity Capital, Alvarium Investments and Talipot Holdings, to boost the commercialization of its enterprise-level quantum computing applications.

CQC previously partnered with Honeywell for access to the multinational’s new Model H1 quantum system, which is slated to grow in computing power across multiple generations over the next 10 years.

“As quantum hardware continues to advance and scale, enterprise customers across a variety of sectors are starting to appreciate just how significantly quantum computing will impact on their operations, and we have started to see the benefits of our product-first focus,” Khan said at the time.